Las Vegas homeless now face fines and jail if found sleeping or camping in public areas as new measure is adopted combating increased destitution. Winner take all society.
Welcome to an America that refuses to face itself in the mirror.
The controversial law, approved Wednesday despite being condemned as a ‘war on the poor,‘ will make sleeping in the open in most downtown areas, illegal – if beds are available in established shelters.
It will be a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Of course one wonders where a destitute person will procure $1000 in the first place.
‘It’s criminalizing the homeless,’ the Rev. Leonard Jackson, director of the city’s Faith Organizing Alliance, complained during a City Hall protest before the law was approved.
‘This is the most disgusting and embarrassing policy I have ever seen,’ said Annette Magnus, the executive director for activist group Battle Born Progress, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The ordinance ‘is a total camouflage for doing nothing,’ said Las Vegas attorney Gerald Gillock in a press release. Adding, ‘It doesn’t require the city to do one single thing.’
‘Housing not handcuffs! Hey hey, ho ho — the war on the poor has got to go!’ protesters chanted, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.
Despite wide condemnation, the law was passed by a 5-2 vote late Wednesday following a daylong City Council meeting that saw several protesters getting booted.
Officials estimate that more than 14,000 people are homeless in and around Las Vegas at some point during the year. The Review-Journal has tallied about 2,000 beds plus an open-air, 24/7 courtyard offered by the city where officials say more than 300 people stay on any given night. It has 220 sleeping mats.
The measure comes as at least 160 cities across the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, have prohibited camping, sitting or lying down in public spaces or outdoor areas, according to a 2016 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty report.
A protest in Las Vegas City Council Chambers opposing an ordinance that would criminalize homeless sleeping on sidewalks: “Housing not handcuffs! Housing not handcuffs!” pic.twitter.com/rpyhloklfj
— Ed Komenda (@ejkomenda) November 6, 2019
‘This is flawed but it is a start,’
Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who sponsored the measure, insisted it was necessary to crack-down on a clear homelessness crisis there.
‘This is flawed but it is a start,’ the mayor said, according to the Gazette Journal. ‘We have been having these conversations for 20 years, and we must have results.’
Supporters say the proposed ordinance will help keep homeless people safe and connect them with services.
Unclear is what measures the city has been emboldened to undertake in a region where a segment of society thrives off the highly lucrative gambling casino industry and adjoining entertainment industry – while the greater majority are forced to contend with rising rentals relative to wage growth and employment opportunities.
Critics note that the measure does nothing to address the issues that contribute to homelessness, such as the affordable housing crisis, unemployment and a lack of services to treat mental illness and substance abuse.
The law applies to the city’s downtown urban core, not the tourist-heavy Las Vegas Strip, which is overseen by a different jurisdiction. It goes into effect on Sunday, although the legal punishments will not begin until the new year.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar law from Boise, Idaho, last year — calling it unconstitutional to prosecute people for sleeping in public places when there aren’t enough shelter beds.
The Las Vegas law was crafted to withstand a similar legal challenge by stressing it only applied ‘if beds are available’ in shelters, City Attorney Brad Jerbic said.
Others meanwhile have wondered the cost to the public of housing destitute persons in jail – as opposed to re directing a sliver of said funds towards incentives addressing the downtrodden and marginalized.
“There are not enough shelters,” a homeless man in Las Vegas said. “This is going to give you a fine you can’t pay, and then they’ll lock you up.” https://t.co/HBn6TYhgYf
— ACLU of Nevada (@ACLUNV) November 5, 2019
Failure to address the root causes of homelessness:
The latest measure follows the council previously criminalizing food handouts to people in public, closing parks and outlawed naps within 500 feet of feces – a measure that was later repealed.
Almost 60 percent of Nevada’s approximately 7,500 homeless residents sleep outdoors, a share that is among the highest in the country, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Las Vegas has one of the greatest shortages of affordable housing for extremely low-income renters — those with incomes at or below the poverty line — in the nation, with 14 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income households, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The national average is 37 affordable housing units for every 100 households.