Escalating violence around homeless shelter has Utah House speaker asking: Is this a job for the National Guard?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A homeless woman who said she lost a close friend, reacts at the scene of a makeshift memorial placed where where a woman plowed her vehicle into six people Tuesday afternoon on 200 South near 400 West in Salt Lake, just outside The Road Home shelter. One woman in a wheelchair was declared dead at the scene.

"The violence and what is going on there is escalating," Hughes said Wednesday. "When it gets that out of hand, you can have a discussion about the National Guard with a straight face."

The Draper Republican explained that he wasn’t asking Gov. Gary Herbert to call out the Guard just yet. But Hughes is among state lawmakers, city and county officials, as well as service providers, who have been working intensively for over three years to improve the neighborhood around Pioneer Park, the homeless shelter and other service centers.

Their efforts look to be falling short.

"It’s just a disgrace," Hughes said. "I worry that we’re not ready to do the things necessary to clean that area up."

Herbert’s office said Wednesday the governor was on rural tour and could not be reached.

Saturday, a homeless man attacked Las Vegas 51s baseball relief pitcher Logan Taylor in an attempted robbery.

When Taylor refused to hand over his wallet, the man, identified as Joshua Cruz, hit him over the head with a tire iron, police said.

News of the assault grabbed national headlines.

Then, on Tuesday evening, a car jumped the curb and plowed into a group of homeless people on 200 South near 400 West about 6 p.m., leaving one dead and five injured.

As folks around The Road Home recalled the incident, they acknowledged that almost anything is possible around Rio Grande Street.

"I turned around and went, oh sh–," Matt Clark said Wednesday. "I went to that girl, Kendra. She was lying on the ground. I saw blood in her mouth. I didn’t know if she was alive."

The word on the street is the woman, known in the neighborhood as Kendra, was the single fatality of a hit-and-run that police still are investigating. The cause remains unknown. The driver fled.

Five other adults were hospitalized — one in critical condition. By Wednesday afternoon, police had not identified the deceased.

Violence is no stranger to people who live in around the shelter, Clark said. "It’s the most dangerous part of the city."

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A homeless woman who said she lost a close friend, reacts at the scene of a makeshift memorial placed where where a woman plowed her vehicle into six people Tuesday afternoon on 200 South near 400 West in Salt Lake, just outside The Road Home shelter. One woman in a wheelchair was declared dead at the scene.

Homelessness and crime » Assault on baseball player, fatal hit-and-run are the latest examples; House speaker asks if it’s time for extraordinary measures.

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"I’ve almost had my ear cut off," he said, pointing to a scar. "And I’ve been hit over the head."

Several feet away, two men on the sidewalk were sticking needles in their arms. Drugs and theft are part of the landscape in the area that borders on lawlessness — despite the on-and-off heavy police presence.

Wednesday, police released the name of a woman who may have been behind he wheel of the car in the deadly crash.

Shutney Lee Kyzer, a 37-year-old with a prison record, was identified as the possible driver.

She fled the scene, but police found and arrested her Wednesday.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A homeless woman who said she lost a close friend, reacts at the scene of a makeshift memorial placed where where a woman plowed her vehicle into six people Tuesday afternoon on 200 South near 400 West in Salt Lake, just outside The Road Home shelter. One woman in a wheelchair was declared dead at the scene.

Homelessness and crime » Assault on baseball player, fatal hit-and-run are the latest examples; House speaker asks if it’s time for extraordinary measures.

Single page « Return to previous page

A passer-by gasped when Bell told him Kendra was dead.

"Oh, no," said the man, who identified himself as Oggy. "She’s like the best lady ever. I got her some shoes just yesterday."

Life goes on in and around Rio Grande Street. People shrug and move on. The homeless population includes many with mental illness or drug addiction — or both. Violence can erupt at any time.

It’s not a place where you can ever relax, explained Clark.

"Everybody’s trying to rob you," he said. "Never take your eyes off your stuff. They steal bikes, phones, everything."

The Road Home can accommodate a maximum of 1,100. But dozens, perhaps hundreds, live outdoors in the area. The shelter is slated to be closed by June 30, 2019.

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