OGDEN -- The cement walls inside and out are decorated by countless graffiti tags that are both artistic and crude, mostly the latter. There are no doors to speak of, just openings that emit the darkness within.
Up the shaky wooden stairs is the loft where clear signs of ruin and habitation reside. The musk of humanity and stench of defecation wafts through the room, which would make someone with a weak tolerance gag. It's impossible to walk through the dwelling and not step on broken glass, pieces of asbestos, tattered rags or rusty nails. The few windows and apparent bullet holes let in little light.
The old concrete building was once a warehouse. At least that's what it looks like. Today it provides shelter to transients who don't mind the squalor of their surroundings anymore. To many, its most attractive features are a roof and a dirty mattress.
The derelict is near 1800 Gibson Avenue, hidden down a dirt road and obscured by trees. Just a few yards south is the Ogden River Parkway where joggers and bicyclists frequent.
This along with other locations are where Ogden Officer Kevin Mann will weekly find transients illegally camping out, which he must enforce.
"Well, this particular place was probably abandoned five or six years ago," he said. "The previous owner had passed away and the family cleaned up the lot and it's just been abandoned ever since. And so, you can count on finding individuals out here on a regular basis."
Of course, the health and safety hazards of dwelling in such places go without saying, Mann said.
Mann is part of Ogden Police Department's Community Policing Unit. One of his duties is to patrol these areas where it is illegal to sleep, such as the parkway and areas surrounding the 21st Street Pond.
"I've seen a ton of tents out here," he said.
Walking through the wooded area between the pond and a scrap yard, clear signs of camps and makeshift dwellings can be found.
Several fire pits along with abandoned bedspreads mark where transients reside. Trails of garbage can lead to piles tossed in the nearby creek or in small pits dug for discarded trash, or perhaps storage of possessions.
Mann said in the past few years there has been an uptick in homeless camping around the Ogden area and it's not clear why.
Most of the unsheltered transients accounted for are either chronically homeless or mentally ill without the means for help, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
People who are homeless due to being victims of domestic abuse, veterans and substance abuse victims are mostly found living in shelters.
The ones that choose to be outside most likely don't trust shelters and prefer being on their own, Mann said. Others don't know how to live any other kind of lifestyle.
Whatever the case, it's illegal to camp in city limits, so transients are frequently forced out by Mann and other Ogden officers.
When a transient is caught clearly camping out, having a tent or bedspread set up, officers will ask for IDs.
"And if they're not wanted, usually we'll just let them go and we'll suggest shelters - give them some information on where they can get assistance," Mann said. "I mean, it's not like they don't have anywhere to go, because we've got two shelters in Ogden City that they can stay at. But it becomes a problem because they leave garbage. You know, human feces and stuff like that."
Mann said rarely do the transients run away and rarely are they dangerous.
"They know that they risk losing their things, which in many cases is their entire life," he said.
As for the derelict building, the private owner is shopping it around for development, so transients may soon have to find a new place with a roof to sleep that's away from people.
Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @SE_Andreas.