LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Las Vegas City Council passed a controversial homeless ordinance with a 5-2 vote Wednesday evening.
The ordinance bans sleeping or camping in public places if there’s room at local shelters. Violators will face a fine and up to six months in jail.
Many opponents spoke out against it during the public comment portion of the city council hearing.
During the last hour, the council offered their opinions on the measure. The members were split, with Councilmember Olivia Diaz speaking against it. Mayor Pro Tem Michele Fiore said it addresses a safety, health and sanitation issues.
The city attorney said the punishment of a fine and jail time is meant to make the ordinance enforceable and get people to local resource centers. Several entities talked about homeless encampments negative impact on the city but also addressed the city’s current efforts and services to help the homeless. The city attorney also said the homeless issue comes from a wage disparity not keeping up with a cost of living and admitted there is a resource gap here.
The day was tense with a lot of emotions, and some people were escorted out of the chamber.
The ordinance will go into effect beginning Nov. 10. The fine and arrest penalties won’t take place until after Jan. 31.
Battle Born Progress executive director Annette Magnus issued a statement on the passing of the ordinance, stating:
Today’s despicable vote to functionally make homelessness a crime in the City of Las Vegas demonstrates the undue influence of business interests and money in our local government. Rather than produce a regional strategy to invest real resources to aid persons experiencing homelessness with substance abuse, health care, housing, and other services the City Council has opted to simply lock up those they deem undesirable. Many folks in our community are simply one health care emergency or rise in a prescription drug price away from financial disaster and experiencing homelessness. As a native of Las Vegas, I have never been more disgusted or embarrassed by a policy. This body should be ashamed of themselves for the way they have treated the public today and for even considering this ordinance.
We believe this action will be more costly in the long run, overburden law enforcement agencies, and break down trust between case-workers and the community they serve. Furthermore, there is reason to believe this policy puts federal HUD dollars in jeopardy, exacerbating existing revenue problems. The Council members and Mayor who voted in favor of this ordinance should be ashamed of themselves, and we vow to continue working with our local partners to hold those members accountable and find real solutions to homelessness in Nevada. I am thankful for the leadership of Councilman Brian Knudsen and Councilwoman Olivia Diaz for voting against this sham ordinance.”
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren also released a statement:
Experiencing homelessness is not a crime and drawing more people into the justice system will only perpetuate it. This measure isn’t a real solution – it’s a band-aid that caters to the interests of powerful business groups while doing real harm to Southern Nevadans, especially communities of color, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.
People experiencing homelessness need housing, not handcuffs. Instead of treating them like criminals, we should focus on connecting them with the resources they need to get back on their feet and investing in affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.
Thank you to all the local activists and organizations who stood up to fight back against this measure. I’m standing with you – this fight isn’t over.”
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders Tweeted his opinion about the approval, saying:
We’re in the middle of a national housing crisis.
Nevada has the greatest shortage of affordable housing for the lowest-income earners.
Criminalizing poverty is not the solution. When we win, we are going to take on the greed creating the crisis and invest $32 billion to end it.”