Man found dead on Salt Lake City bench after freezing overnight temperatures

A man was found dead in downtown Salt Lake City after a night of freezing temperatures. Photo: Gephardt Daily

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Dec. 17, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — On Tuesday night, about 70 people attended a vigil for the 97 people who died homeless in Salt Lake City in the past year. On Saturday morning, police found the body of a man whose name will likely be added to next year’s grim memorial.

The man was found bundled up but apparently frozen to death on a bench near 345 S. 500 West. Temperatures had dipped to 21 degrees before dawn Saturday morning.

“I was thinking about that very issue as I got outside and felt how cold it was,” said Lt. Mike Ross, Salt Lake City Police Department, who was called to the scene.

“I was hoping we didn’t have something like this tragedy occur where we have another person who’s on the street and freezes to death because of temperatures.”

Officers spotted the unidentified man on the bench this morning and pulled over, Ross said.

“We’re in an area where a lot of these people are struggling with addiction or other problems, and they end up down here to take part in some of the services — the shelter, Fourth Street, the medical care — a lot of good services in the area help people out. But unfortunately, on a night like last night when you choose to stay outside, this could happen.”

Ross said finding bodies of homeless people is fairly common in the frigid months, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “I think a lot of people look at police officers as being uncaring, unfeeling, but we’re in this job because we care about people and want to do the right thing. So when you see something like this, you now, it bothers you, because you know there’s places he could have went last night and stayed warm. The shelter had beds last night.”

Salt Lake City’s Mayor Jackie Biskupski on Tuesday announced the building locations of four new homeless centers, which will replace current center The Road Home, which has 1,100 beds. The new centers will have a maximum of 150 beds each, for a total of 600 or fewer.

The goal, Biskupski said, is to get clients help to quickly get them out of the system and into affordable housing and jobs. Proposed center No. 1, to be in the Sugar House area, has drawn significant anger and backlash due to its location in a residential neighborhood.

The project has not yet been approved by Salt Lake’s City Council.

Ross said people looking for a way to help the homeless population can volunteer or donate clothing or money to service organizations.

“The most important thing they can do is support the services for these people, The Road Home, Fourth Street, all of these places that provides beds for them, shelter for them, help them out,” Ross said.

“Give them clothing and they’ll get it to the people. What I see a lot of time is people handing out money on the street, and a lot of times that doesn’t go, perhaps, to the right things the people need.

“A lot of these people like I say are people facing that monster of addiction, and so that money goes right back into that. So helping out the services providers, I think, is the most important thing anyone can do.”

Ross said he and his family have volunteered, and served meals.

“They’re going to start their big drive where you can bring down socks and other items people need to stay warm,” Ross said. “Don’t forget about them.”


  1. The Deadly Myth is that homeless people can get shelter from freezing temperatures if they ask for it. NOT always true. Most shelters require a valid ID. ID’s are stolen from the homeless. The minute a homeless person goes to sleep out on the streets, some preditor is scheming to steal his/her ID. ID’s sell fast. Easy money for a preditor.

    In years past, the overflow shelters provided warmth to people without ID’s. This was a great service to our homeless people. I read that our Mayor has not taken the necessary steps to open the overflow shelters this year. I can only hope that she was not aware of the ID issue. If she had been aware, then perhaps some from our legal community can bring some action on behalf of the families of those poor souls who freeze to death for the lack a meager overflow shelter on the coldest of our frigid nights.

    Good to see Gebhardt give notice of this sad event. Sadly, many many have frozen to death on the streets of Salt Lake City without so much as a whisper from our local media.

      • Certainly, there are many homeless who are prepared for sub-freezing cold and prefer to stay outside. But there are hundreds of homeless who want shelter on the coldest nights, are in NO WAY prepared, and can’t get in because they have no ID. The overflow shelters in past years were a huge help. They allowed people in with no ID.

        According to recent news, the overflow shelters are NOT open this year. This will be a death sentence for someone’s son or daughter this Winter unless immediately corrected.

  2. The Road Home does not and had not ever required any kind of ID to get into shelter. All overflow spaces that have been available in previous years are open this year too.

  3. This is very sad that people die everyday from not having a warm place. I’m not sure why Salt lake has a very big homeless problem but it needs to be addressed by city officials mainly the mayor to open up the overflow shelters, So this will not happen again. If she (the mayor) has never been homeless than she does not know what it feels like to be out there not knowing where your next meal is going to come from or where your going to lay your head at night. Not everyone choose to be homeless things happen in life that is the reality of life. Everyone is talking about oh I don’t want a homeless shelter in my neighborhood it’s not good for business we will close our shop doors or not renew our lease or it will bring down the property value of our homes. Are people that vain that you can not care about another human being? Guest what not all homeless people are bad some are down on their luck do to lost of a job and want to work but can’t due to not having a home or a shelter to go to get proper rest. Instead of arguing about it help solve the problem instead of business closing offer jobs to help get a homeless person back on their feet. Some people just need a chance a helping hand to get back into the game of life! I would like to see the mayor of Salt Lake go out and be homeless for 48 hrs. with no security, no nothing but the clothes on her back just to see the reality of being homeless. It’s one thing to sit behind a warm desk and say I know there is a problem but what are you really doing about it mayor? FYI I’m not just commenting on this story I know what it is like to be a working homeless person with kids I use to be homeless too.

    • Agree, I was a single mom of 3 daughters after leaving my abuser, unfortunately being in that kind of relationship led me to drinking, just to be numb. I still worked and took care of my kids and although im grateful the road home existed, i was thrown out on 3 different occasions because i was breathalized and failed, one of them was the day after drinking. They never checked levels any alcohol and u were out for 24 hours, i had no where to go with my 3 daughters but thankfully a stranger paid for a hotel room for me and my kids. But the ID thing is true, and if anyone is under the influence of anything they cant stay or if their hygiene is bad.

  4. I can’t believe Lt Ross assumes this man “chose” to stay outside. the shelters require ID, which is a barrier to seeking help. This poor man may have died because he didn’t have ID, or because he has substance or mental health problems. He didn’t choose this. Until we change that dialogue, this problem will remain.

  5. The biggest problem is that the shelters are NOT giving the donations! They go into a large bin and sent to deseret industries , How many times have the shelter been discovered to have been absconding with the donations of food money and clothing , AND most certainly not every homeless person is a drug user , as you insist on profileing and stereotyping to suit your agenda , I agree be wise with that dollar, but do give , I refuse to have anyone tell me that I can’t hand a dollar to my brother or sister , and is it not strange that the new shelters , seem to be in such close proximity of the Deseret Industries stores ? Is it not strange …the push towards the road home ? .THE LARGEST OPEN BLACK MARKET IN THE DRUG TRADE ? So ask former officer Shane , who is behind the drug trade on the Henderson block.

  6. I was homeless for 8 years and it had nothing to do with addictions. Its so sad that humans choose to sleep outside n this weather because they feel safer there. Helping everyone with affordable housing is a better thought even f it s unrealistic

  7. Not true about having to have I.D. My brother and my daughter are down there and neither have an I,D. Brother in day treatment, meetings etc, daughter is an active addict not ready to get clean. Your welcome in the shelter’s, may have to go to over flow but go. It’s to cold to sleep outside. God bless you all.

  8. in stead of closing the big shelter and building 4 smaller ones that have less room why not take the old empty schools,hospitals, factories etc and convert them to shelters. have the homeless help with chores like cooking etc and police themselves. Offer programs to help them reintegrate back into society. If they are not willing to do that them their stay at the shelters should be limited to make room for those who want the help. Many do have some mental illness or addiction so there should be programs available to them to help them get back on their feet try to give them a hand up not a hand out. Some times becoming homeless is something they cannot help from happening and so their pride and embarrassment hinder their willingness to ask for help. Most homeless people have no one to help them either by chance or being disowned by those who would be there for most of us but by finding a way to give them a leg up we are helping them start a journey that will help them for the rest of their lives. I pray that the city can come up with a plan so that we do not have to hear about more homeless people dying because no one was willing to make the effort to make things change for the better for them and us too.

    • Dont wanna here bout it? Do sumthin! Or pretend your homeless. U just found out its gonna be below 32 degrees tonight ! and u usually chill at sugar house park. How in the hell can I get to the downtown shelter in time? I can tell u its 2 miles. I better start running. Except for I am 74 and have joint pains. I Dont abuse meds but really don’t think I will make it. So I’m gonna make bed down with the ducks geese and snow drifts to survive. It would be so easy for the surrounding peeps to say “I am entitled because I worked my way here.” sugar house was a prison and if yall dont sort out niceness be prepared to be haunted.

  9. If only the LDS churches would open their doors on nights like this and allow the homeless to sleep on their pews, maybe even provide a hot meal?! Many religions do. There is an LDS church on every corner that is empty, heated, and has a wonderfully compassionate ward that would willingly send a couple members to open the doors for these people. How can we consider ourselves christlike when we allow the less fortunate to literally die on our doorstep? I would rather spend the night ensuring another life is not lost than paying my tithe to a church who won’t open their doors to the less fortunate. We are better than this.

    • U have hit the nail on the head. Smart qnd legit. thing is everything has to go up the chain of command right? But from what I have heard the general authorities trust all of their bishops right? They dont want to be bothered with nonsense. so as a congregation and bishop……Why dontcha? What is the worse that could happen? Nuttin.
      I know every church has night security. I used to do it when I was a kid. Make a roster, keep control. Be christlike!!!

      I live in Texas and am told often that mormons are not Christians. Here’s the thing I know u are. But letting people freeze isn’t a Christian thing.

      In Alaska they don’t care who u r they will not let people freeze. What if it was a child would u care then? And btw I slept just fine on those pews every Sunday when I was a little bit.

      I know who has keys. Bishop. RF pres. PP. And many others. All yall need to do step up.

      Realize that u have the power and get some media on it and I’m sure the prophet will be joyful that his people are close to being perfect just like jesus. Amen.

  10. Choosing to stay outside in 20 degrees weather? I do not believe it was a choice. The system is so broken. I believe the main problem is the need for a jobs that pay a living wage. By that I mean, paying people enough so that they can put a roof over their
    heads and pay the utilities and some food in their bellies. The people that are having mental problems or are addicts, give them a chance to help themselves. A transitioning program, job, medication, counseling, and a place to live. Self worth matters to everyone. No matter what situation an individual faces.

  11. I am not going to name any names but their is a story behind what happened to this man. A person I know said he had helped this man 3 times that day because of his job and he had taken him to the hospital 3 different times to 3 different hospitals and the man had left every time on his own because he was not given the drugs he wanted and would leave to get taken to another hospital but was always turned down because the hospitals won’t give drugs for no need. He was told he needed to go to the homeless shelter but refused to go. because of drug addiction or mental problems it was still his choice to not go to the homeless shelter that night. This friend told me the homeless people who he works with all the time never want to go to the homeless shelter because they are afraid of getting things stolen and or getting hurt either sexually or phisically. The homeless problem in SLC is a huge problem and needs serious help. I’m not saying every homeless person has mental problems or addiction but this man did and had been helped a lot that day. My friend was very sad that he could’nt have done more for him that day when he learned he had died that night. I’m sad for the people that work with the homeless in SLC and can’t do more for them it’s very hard mentally on those workers. Huge problem that needs to be addressed!!!!

  12. For some reason the shelter in midvale won’t allow us to get anything out of the warehouse this month. The warehouse is where all the donated items go and when you need clothes or hygiene you can go to the warehouse once a month and get what you need. * its so kind and thoughtful of all the people and groups that donate to the shelter but its NOT OK FOR THE shelter staff to lock it all up in a storage container and ban us from the warehouse this month. *IF YOU DONATE ANYTHING TO THE SHELTER IN MIDVALE PASS IT OUT YOURSELF OR ITS JUST GOING TO BE LOCKED UP IN A STORAGE BIN IN THE PARKING LOT.

  13. Faces In The Street

    They lie, the men who tell us in a loud decisive tone
    That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown;
    For where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
    My window-sill is level with the faces in the street —
    Drifting past, drifting past,
    To the beat of weary feet —
    While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

    And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
    To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
    I look in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet
    In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street —
    Drifting on, drifting on,
    To the scrape of restless feet;
    I can sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

    In hours before the dawning dims the starlight in the sky
    The wan and weary faces first begin to trickle by,
    Increasing as the moments hurry on with morning feet,
    Till like a pallid river flow the faces in the street —
    Flowing in, flowing in,
    To the beat of hurried feet —
    Ah! I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the street.

    The human river dwindles when ’tis past the hour of eight,
    Its waves go flowing faster in the fear of being late;
    But slowly drag the moments, whilst beneath the dust and heat
    The city grinds the owners of the faces in the street —
    Grinding body, grinding soul,
    Yielding scarce enough to eat —
    Oh! I sorrow for the owners of the faces in the street.

    And then the only faces till the sun is sinking down
    Are those of outside toilers and the idlers of the town,
    Save here and there a face that seems a stranger in the street,
    Tells of the city’s unemployed upon his weary beat —
    Drifting round, drifting round,
    To the tread of listless feet —
    Ah! My heart aches for the owner of that sad face in the street.

    And when the hours on lagging feet have slowly dragged away,
    And sickly yellow gaslights rise to mock the going day,
    Then flowing past my window like a tide in its retreat,
    Again I see the pallid stream of faces in the street —
    Ebbing out, ebbing out,
    To the drag of tired feet,
    While my heart is aching dumbly for the faces in the street.

    And now all blurred and smirched with vice the day’s sad pages end,
    For while the short `large hours’ toward the longer `small hours’ trend,
    With smiles that mock the wearer, and with words that half entreat,
    Delilah pleads for custom at the corner of the street —
    Sinking down, sinking down,
    Battered wreck by tempests beat —
    A dreadful, thankless trade is hers, that Woman of the Street.

    But, ah! to dreader things than these our fair young city comes,
    For in its heart are growing thick the filthy dens and slums,
    Where human forms shall rot away in sties for swine unmeet,
    And ghostly faces shall be seen unfit for any street —
    Rotting out, rotting out,
    For the lack of air and meat —
    In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.

    I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
    Were all their windows level with the faces of the Poor?
    Ah! Mammon’s slaves, your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
    When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street,
    The wrong things and the bad things
    And the sad things that we meet
    In the filthy lane and alley, and the cruel, heartless street.

    I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
    And sought another window overlooking gorge and hill;
    But when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
    They haunted me — the shadows of those faces in the street,
    Flitting by, flitting by,
    Flitting by with noiseless feet,
    And with cheeks but little paler than the real ones in the street.

    Once I cried: `Oh, God Almighty! if Thy might doth still endure,
    Now show me in a vision for the wrongs of Earth a cure.’
    And, lo! with shops all shuttered I beheld a city’s street,
    And in the warning distance heard the tramp of many feet,
    Coming near, coming near,
    To a drum’s dull distant beat,
    And soon I saw the army that was marching down the street.

    Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
    The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
    And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat,
    And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.
    Pouring on, pouring on,
    To a drum’s loud threatening beat,
    And the war-hymns and the cheering of the people in the street.

    And so it must be while the world goes rolling round its course,
    The warning pen shall write in vain, the warning voice grow hoarse,
    But not until a city feels Red Revolution’s feet
    Shall its sad people miss awhile the terrors of the street —
    The dreadful everlasting strife
    For scarcely clothes and meat
    In that pent track of living death — the city’s cruel street.

    by Henry Lawson

  14. This is so not cool. I grew up on state street then got bussed to highland high school. I am now richer than all yall combined but I was dirt poor then.
    My question for u sugar housers is this: what makes u think ur better than homeless people? And also christ was taken in over and over. So if u dont want them inside ur house then vote for them to be allowed to live among u in ur house. How bout u build them one of their own eh? I know yall paid ur tithing and u gave money to other issues. But your fear is a poor excuse to not help these people most who are not mentally well.


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