Sleeping on public sidewalks or streets may soon not be an option for homeless people in Las Vegas. On November 6 the City Council will proceed to vote on a proposal that will make sleeping on the streets illegal. The proposal will consider the following as a misdemeanour; resting, sleeping, or lodging in Las Vegas downtown district and other residential areas.
Those found in violation will be fined up to $1,000 and can face up to 6 months in prison. Peeples who is 46 and has been homeless for almost two years says,
“It’s already hard enough because there are not enough shelters.” Supporters of the proposal claim that this law will ultimately help homeless people stay safe and connect with services that can help.
According to official statistics, more than 3,000 people in Clark County are without shelter. Many of them sleep on the streets or in desert areas, encampments, cars, or even in tunnels below the ground! Those who don’t find shelter usually end up at Las Vegas Courtyard Homeless Resource Centre, which is a city-funded facility offering temporary living space for the homeless. At least 160 cities around the U.S prohibit camping, sitting or lying down in public spaces or outdoor areas. Those cities include; New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Emily Paulsen, executive director of the Nevada Homeless Alliance, an advocacy and outreach nonprofit says, “If someone is fearful that they are going to be arrested or ticketed, they are going to disengage from street outreach,” she said, “making it more difficult for street outreach people to connect homeless people to services.”
Advocates for the homeless
Advocates for the homeless around Las Vegas expressed their concern regarding imposing an additional burden on the homeless with fines and criminal records that will make it harder for them to find jobs, save up for rental payments, and receive government assistance. “To some people, it may seem that if you get homeless folks out of sight, and perhaps out of mind, that that’s an improvement. But that’s a lie,” former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, a Democratic presidential candidate, said at a protest supporting the homeless of Las Vegas last October.
Supporters of the proposal
Supporters of the new law include the Downtown Vegas Alliance, a business group including hotels and gambling companies, which see the ban as a necessary first step to help protect those who have made a significant investment in the area. “The city believes the ordinance will be a benefit to the homeless population, while at the same time protecting the health and safety of the entire community,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in a statement.