Did our city do right to the homelessness problem?

On Wednesday November 6th, the Las Vegas City Council passed Ordinance 2019-36 by a 5-2 vote before a highly emotional and raucous crowd, this ordinance prohibits camping, lodging and similar activities within any public right of way adjacent to residential property, within specific districts of the city or within five hundred feet of any receiving dock of a food processing facility.  In other words, this bill targets the vulnerable homeless population of our city by citing those found sleeping or camping on or around a public sidewalk.  City officials attempt to dress this up as a method to nudge the homeless into shelters and off of the streets of the city but make no mistake, all this will do is penalize homeless people with a fine and a jail sentence, a mere band aid for the issue at hand.  If beds are available in nearby shelters and a person is found to be sleeping on the street, they will be fined $1000.00 and or serve six months in jail. Truth be told, city officials have no compassion for the homeless population, if they were interested in truly solving the issue, they would address the rising housing costs, the issue of stagnant wages and lack of access to mental health care.  Caught in the crossfire of this war between the classes are the homeless youth population of our city, comprised of LBGTQ youth who have been turned away by their families as well as victims of physical, mental and or sexual abuse.

An estimated 2000 young people are living on the streets of our city, a stark contrast to the glitter and glamour that our city is known for all over the world.  In the shadows of the new billion dollar Raiders Stadium, living in the storm drains of our neon lit city, are young people who have been cast away by their families and loved ones and are subject to drug and alcohol abuse as well as panhandling and in many cases sex work. This is beyond reprehensible and we must do better by our homeless youth. Ironically the day after the council meeting, the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth (NPHY) held their annual seminar at the Venetian to bring awareness and education to this issue with workshops and conversations about possible solutions to this epidemic.  This epidemic is a plague raging in all of our cities, we have lost our ability for compassion and empathy, our priorities have become askew and we are failing as a society as all of this is creating an immense separation between the haves and have nots.  Bills such as 2019-36 serve only to punish the poor when we should be reaching out a helping hand to get them to the services they need.

Equality Nevada will be working with NPHY and many other organizations for common sense solutions to this issue, the time has come for empathy and brotherhood as what we need is a complete overhaul of our system, let’s roll up our sleeves and begin the conversation. Here is a fact to consider, there are 2000 beds among the shelters in our city and an estimated 5000 homeless people living on the streets, with 2000 being of youth, so already the ordinance begins with us being behind the eight ball, so to speak. Nevada also has the highest  shortage of affordable housing for the lowest income households, 14,000 are estimated to be homeless in Southern Nevada. In many cases, it is an issue of addiction, substance abuse and mental health and sadly this ordinance will do nothing to address those important matters.

We will be working on a new type of plan to create shelter locations.  In California they have designed a plan called Host Homes.   Where folks living in the area that have open bedrooms become shelter for youth to live, call home and to give them a fresh start in life.  If your interested in being a host home, contact us at Info@EqualityNV.org and let us know, so we can start the process in getting you qualified to become a host home for youth in Southern Nevada!

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