Utah Mayor Suffers "Shocking Experience" After Going Undercover As Homeless Man

Amid President Obama's 'recovery', President Trump's 'awesome economy', and record high stock prices, Salt Lake City mayor Ben McAdams secretly entered the world of the homeless in Utah as he pondered a decision (that he knew would anger many residents) on the selection of a site for a third homeless resource center in his city.

As Deseret News' Katie McKellar reports, for four months, McAdams has kept a secret (keeping it out of headlines, hoping to avoid the perception, he said, of a "publicity stunt in the face of human suffering").

Back in March, just days before he was due by state law to select a third site for a new homeless resource center - a decision he knew would anger thousands of his constituents, regardless of his choice - McAdams left work on a Friday with no money or ID and walked to Salt Lake City's most troubled neighborhood.

Dressed in jeans, sneakers and a hoodie, the county mayor spent three days and two nights walking and sleeping among the homeless and drug-addicted in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande neighborhood.

One night on the street. One night in the shelter.

His experience was "shocking" on multiple levels, he said. And while he by no means meant his experience to be an "expose" on the Road Home shelter, an important stakeholder in homeless services reform, his stay did shed light on some troubling realities within the 1,062-bed shelter, including:

  • Blatant use of drugs inside the men's dorms, including his bunkmate injecting drugs into his arm - though he declined to discuss details about that encounter with the Deseret News.
  • He smelled what he assumed was smoke from drugs "all night long."
  • He witnessed violence - a fight between two men in the dorms, during which a man was dragged off of his bunk and hit his head on the concrete floor.
  • He didn't feel safe - and could see why someone would take their chances on the streets in 40-degree rainy weather rather than spend a night in the downtown shelter.

The county mayor has kept his experience private for months. But after the Deseret News learned of the overnight stays from a source and requested an interview, McAdams eventually — reluctantly — agreed to discuss it this week with the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.

The purpose of the stay, McAdams said, was not to go undercover and expose the troubles homeless providers face while trying to serve Utah's most vulnerable. Rather, it was meant to help him "deepen" his understanding of the current homeless system before he decided which city would house a third homeless resource center.

"I needed to see firsthand, to understand the complexity of the recommendation I was being asked to make," he said.


The experience "instilled in me a conviction that we had to move forward," McAdams said, during a time when many of his constituents were pushing back against years of effort to reform the homeless system.


"There were many people saying, 'Back away and do nothing,'" McAdams said. "Seeing what I saw … was shocking, and I came away from this experience knowing we had to go forward, we had to change the system, that we as a community had kicked the can down the road for decades and just looked the other way."

Not disclosing who he was, McAdams said he and his employee spent the first night on a street outside the Rio Grande area to "understand why some people would choose not to go into shelter."

"It was cold — below 40s," the mayor said. When he woke up, it was raining. "You wonder why people would choose to do that, knowing that there were beds available in the shelter."

But the next night, McAdams understood why.

The Deseret News learned from two other people that after McAdams had checked into the men's dorms, he saw his bunkmate injecting drugs into his arm. When asked about that incident, McAdams declined to discuss it.

"One person told me to be sure not to use the restroom at night because it wasn't safe," McAdams added. The man didn't elaborate, but McAdams said he assumed it was a reference to sexual violence.


"I didn't feel safe," he said. "It was a fairly chaotic environment."


He added: "I certainly could understand why people would choose not to sleep there."


He said if he were addicted to drugs, he would know "the Rio Grande area is not the place to go" to kick the habit, adding that "drug dealing is at every corner."

Revamping the system, he said, "can't happen fast enough."

Of course, Salt Lake City, Utah is not alone...

Homelessness in San Diego has surged in recent years. A January tally put the number of transients in the city at over 5,600, up more than 10 percent from last year. The total number has risen more than 40 percent since 2014.

The chairman’s idea is for the city to construct temporary housing on the practice field of Qualcomm Stadium, where the San Diego Chargers played until 2016, and the San Diego State Aztecs play.

The number of homeless people in Los Angeles is skyrocketing. In just one year, the figures revealed that the homeless population in the city grew 20% while the numbers for the wider Los Angeles County were even higher at 23%.

As if looking at those numbers isn’t cringeworthy enough, The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported Wednesday that 6,000 homeless young people were tallied across the county in January, a 61% increase over the 2016 total. Most of the young people are ages 18 to 24. All the youth shelters have waiting lists and affordable housing is tough to find, even with a rent voucher, according to Heidi Calmus of Covenant House California, an international youth homeless services agency with a branch in Hollywood. “The system is overwhelmed,” Calmus said Tuesday night as she and a colleague, Nick Semensky, delivered toiletry bags and sandwiches to young people living in the streets.

Despite efforts to combat the problem, the number of homeless continue to go up.

And just like during the last economic crisis, homeless encampments are popping up all over the nation as poverty grows at a very alarming rate.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half a million people are homeless in America right now, but that figure is increasing by the day.  And it isn’t just adults that we are talking about.  It has been reported that that the number of homeless children in this country has risen by 60 percent since the last recession, and Poverty USA says that a total of 1.6 million children slept either in a homeless shelter or in some other form of emergency housing at some point last year.  Yes, the stock market may have been experiencing a temporary boom for the last couple of years, but for those on the low end of the economic scale things have just continued to deteriorate.

Tonight, countless numbers of homeless people will try to make it through another chilly night in large tent cities that have been established in the heart of major cities such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.  Homelessness has gotten so bad in California that the L.A. City Council has formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency.   And in Portland the city has extended their “homeless emergency” for yet another year, and city officials are really struggling with how to deal with the booming tent cities that have sprung up

There have always been homeless people in Portland, but last summer Michelle Cardinal noticed a change outside her office doors.


Almost overnight, it seemed, tents popped up in the park that runs like a green carpet past the offices of her national advertising business. She saw assaults, drug deals and prostitution. Every morning, she said, she cleaned human feces off the doorstep and picked up used needles.



“It started in June and by July it was full-blown. The park was mobbed,” she said. “We’ve got a problem here and the question is how we’re going to deal with it.”

But of course it isn’t just Portland that is experiencing this.  The following list of major tent cities that have become so well-known and established that they have been given names comes from Wikipedia

Most of the time, those that establish tent cities do not want to be discovered because local authorities have a nasty habit of shutting them down and forcing homeless people out of the area.

* * *

How is all this possible? With 'full employment' and record high stocks?


Socratic Dog de3de8 Tue, 08/08/2017 - 11:46 Permalink

Give the guy some credit. He did something I've never heard of any other politician doing. And he kept his mouth shut about it, that deserves even more credit.

I spent 3 days/2 nights on the road recently in my van. Drove from SF bay area down to San Diego and back. Slept in a highway rest area each night. They were jammed full of cars, people sleeping, I had to park illegally each night. At first I thought that were travelers, like me. Then I realized they were homeless. A good number of them families, sleeping in sedans. What a fucking life. I pray I never have to live like that.

In reply to by de3de8

Canary Paint historian40 Tue, 08/08/2017 - 05:53 Permalink

Normally, I am ready to jump on any bandwagon asking just how oblivious politicians might be to everyday life.In this case, I would venture the guess that most folks are quite oblivious to the homelessness aspect of society. It is not really something you come into contact with, except for when you are asked for change, unless you seek it out.

In reply to by historian40

LindseyNarrate… (not verified) Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:36 Permalink

It must be genuinely traumatizing for someone on-his-level to see what REALITY is like, in "the real world", after having come-down-from-his-Ivory-Tower. Seriously. Lindsey

Bigly Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:39 Permalink

This guy is a pussy.He needed to do this to arrive at conclusions everyone already knows?Also, catch he did not do this alone but had an 'employee' accompany him. Beta cuck!!!

auricle The_Juggernaut Tue, 08/08/2017 - 01:34 Permalink

So, he doesn't get reports from the administrative staff that oversee daily operations at these shelters? Surely the administrative staff and police have received complaints. The theatrical visit to slumtown by the mayor is such a nice touch because stealing more from the working class to improve the lives of the non-working class is always a tough sell. 

In reply to by The_Juggernaut

scintillator9 Bigly Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:52 Permalink

From my perspective, he did a much more sincere action than Mr. Zuckerberg did by just putting on some "work" clothes and go to an oil rig in Williston, ND.http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-13/mark-zuckerberg-finally-figure… everyone knows what is going on when there are so many distractions  thanks to a variety of "infotainment" products and services to help block out what one does not wish to see. 

In reply to by Bigly

Canary Paint Bigly Tue, 08/08/2017 - 05:58 Permalink

You know it takes more than calling people betas to be an alpha, right?I am not so sure "everybody" knows about this. Unless someone in your family is homeless or you do some volunteer work or just seek out research of your own volition, it is pretty easy to overlook this segment of society.I don't know anything about this guy's policy directions, etc, but I think the effort shows a bit of curiosity.

In reply to by Bigly

Philanthropocalypse Bigly Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:31 Permalink

You can spray paint it pink, but there's still shit, on your head...  shithead.When the times come, and they sure appear to be arriving, don't they?... it won't be hard for men of good conscience to determine what conclusions to make about your kind, Bigly.In tense times, in hard times, men with loud mouths, with flapping lips, end up eating shit, more often then wise men, who keep their own counsel. I will need to wipe the shit from my eyes, to see clearly, in hard times, but that's no different than today. I hope to see you, and your kind, on the field...

In reply to by Bigly

ScratInTheHat Tue, 08/08/2017 - 00:51 Permalink

These FN fools! It's trying to help them that hurts them! Ben Franklin knew this over 200 years ago! This stupid has been used and abused over and over again! Stop handing out money! It screws up everything! Wean everyone off the tit!

Darkman17 Crush the cube Tue, 08/08/2017 - 01:29 Permalink

I hate this extortion argument, it makes me feel even worse about paying taxes than simply thinking there is some free loader enjoying my labor. If this is really the case, it makes me want to move to a country like switzerland, pay 1/3 the tax, and let America go through a rinse cycle where all the socially dependent people turn on each other once there is nobody with assets left to turn on.

In reply to by Crush the cube

Philanthropocalypse blahzay Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:36 Permalink

So that would be bankers, then pharma execs, then DEA agents, the police agents, then all their employees, Then we could have some peace in the streets?   Is that what you're saying?Pretty "agro" attitude for such a "Blahzay" kinda schmuck.Lets's try what the other Western Civs are trying, legalization, instead of what the Saudis and other authoritarians are trying... hmmm?

In reply to by blahzay