A Utah homeowner is allowing the homeless to camp in his front yard, use the restroom in his house, and volunteer at a community garden that he runs.
“The goal is to de-stigmatize how people view homelessness,” Darin Mann told CNN. “Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and helped when they need it.”
Mann, a local activist, opened his camp in mid-January. As of Sunday morning, 15 people live there. Mann told CNN that some of the campers came from other camps that were shut down in Salt Lake City.
He says those who camp out on his property are productive citizens, especially at the garden he keeps up.
“They are helping me clean the garden and get it ready for the season,” he said. “They keep the camp clean and are helping to be a positive example of working with unsheltered people.”
But not everyone is on board with Mann’s efforts.
City officials have received complaints from Mann’s neighbors, and the city has served Mann with a code violation. Camping on residential property is illegal for more than two days in Fairpark, a neighborhood five-minutes from downtown Salt Lake City.
City officials served him a two-week notice to shut down his camp.
Despite the notice, Mann plans on keeping the campsite going. He claimed he is openly communicating with his neighbors about their needs and says several of his neighbors even contribute to the cause by donating clothes and cooking food.
He also espouses a zero-tolerance policy for drug use or violent behavior among his campers.
The activist has been meeting with city officials to convince them to keep his front yard open for the campers beyond two weeks and hopes they can see it as a way to treat homeless people living on the fringes of society.