Nicknamed “Happy Valley,” Utah County has the gleaming tech offices of Silicon Slopes and the tidy campuses of Brigham Young and Utah Valley universities — and not one homeless shelter.
With no emergency shelter where people can sleep overnight, providers try to offer transitional housing or permanent places to live — or pay for a few nights in hotels, for those who need immediate help.
But this safety net has holes. People who fall through them can end up sleeping outdoors, often choosing hidden spots to avoid detection by police and the community.
“They’re basically invisible,” she said.
Some people sleep in their cars — including Jackie Davidson, 75, who said she has three or four spots that she moves her car between to avoid suspicion. Others couch surf or stay overnight in a 24-hour laundromat.
Edgar Gago, 65, recently found refuge for a night on a bench on University Avenue, where he said he was only able to sleep three hours. But the police didn’t bother him there, he said, because he slept upright and “didn’t break the rules” against camping.
Outreach workers say they have found people sleeping in these Provo spots:
Advocates disagree about whether Utah County needs an emergency overnight shelter.
But at least some people experiencing homelessness want one — including Danny Herring, 52, who said he would go to a shelter, at least “for a while.”
“You can’t sleep out at night,” he said. “You can’t panhandle. You can’t hardly do anything. So all the homeless people around here in Provo and stuff, they have a really hard time getting by.”