[Hpn] Folding the tents: Homeless people at center of dispute;Las Vegas, Nevada
Morgan W. Brown
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 15:14:29 -0400
June 18, 2001 at 10:31:51 PDT
Las Vegas Sun <http://www.lasvegassun.com>
Las Vegas News section
Folding the tents: Homeless people at center of dispute
By Erica Johnson
LAS VEGAS SUN
Homeless advocates say the city of Las Vegas has created an unnecessary
crisis with its recent initiative to remove encampments of homeless people
along the railroad tracks near Main Street and Owens Avenue.
They are challenging city officials to come up with proactive suggestions to
find a new place for the 100 people who live in the area dubbed "Tent City"
"Whenever 100 people lose their homes, whether it's an apartment or a house
or a tent, that's a crisis, because they have nowhere to go," Brian Brooks,
chairman of the public awareness committee for the Southern Nevada Homeless
But city officials say the "Tent City" closure, and homelessness in general,
is not a city problem, but a regional one that Clark County and the cities
of Henderson and North Las Vegas also should address.
After receiving an abatement notice from the city, William Smith of Boulder
City, who owns the property, earlier this month signed a formal trespass
form, asking Metro Police to remove the people who live there.
Plans to clear the encampment came shortly after Catholic Charities closed
its emergency shelter, which provided 175 beds to homeless men, in order to
MASH Village cut back beds and services at its nearby shelter earlier this
month as well, after negotiations with the city of Las Vegas failed to grant
ownership of the land it occupies. It had also lost $500,000 a year from the
city when a five-year contract expired in December.
The nonprofit group also shut down its 250-bed winter tent on April 16.
Officials said next winter's cold-weather shelter will depend on how
successful the group is in raising private funds. The shelter aims to raise
$1 million by the end of the year,
The Salvation Army still has 20 beds in its emergency shelter and the Shade
Tree Shelter for Women and Children, also an emergency shelter, has 182
Brooks said the Southern Nevada Homeless Coalition, a network of
individuals, nonprofit and for-profit groups that help the homeless, wants
to meet with the city to come to an agreement on where the Tent City
squatters can go.
"What we want is for the city to contact us when something like this happens
instead of just acting on it and making the people move off the property,"
Brooks said. "That way we could get together with the city and with experts
and try to work something out that meets the goals of everyone and takes
care of the people in a respectful way."
As of today the coalition had made no direct attempts to reach city
officials, or vice versa, Brooks said and city officials confirmed.
Sharon Segerblom, director of Neighborhood Services, said the city is taking
steps to provide the homeless with other options, whether that means helping
them find temporary shelter or enrolling them in social service programs.
Segerblom said city officials are working closely with the Salvation Army to
"speak to, touch and counsel every individual" in the encampment. Since the
impending closure, the Salvation Army has formed an outreach team to provide
services to anyone living in the encampment who wants help, Segerblom said.
City officials said since the outreach, which began June 11 and was to last
for two weeks, 16 people from the encampment have been enrolled in Salvation
Army programs and others have found programs on their own. As a result,
Segerblom said, only 30 to 50 people are left at the encampment.
Segerblom said that besides being a health risk, the encampment was
notorious for violence, beatings and murders. She said the city's role is
not to shoo people off the property, but to deal with health and safety
hazards while maintaining the dignity and privacy of the people who live
"It boggles my mind that a homeless advocate would want people living in
100-degree temperatures with no sanitation and no water," Segerblom said.
A 1999 study done by UNLV's sociology department, which counted and surveyed
homeless in the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson,
estimated about 6,700 homeless people on the streets or in shelters in
More than 45 percent of those surveyed were high school graduates and 20
percent of them had either bachelor's degrees or some college credit. More
than 34 percent said they had served in the military, the study showed.
Metro Police Officer Kendall Wiley, who specializes in homeless outreach,
said no date has been set for the "Tent City" clearing, and the department
is waiting for the Salvation Army to finish its evaluation. At that time she
will hand out fliers warning the people to vacate the property. Once the
fliers are dispersed, Wiley said, she will try to give the inhabitants
another week to move along.
Gustavo Ramos, a member of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition
Task Force and chairman of the Southern Nevada Homeless Coalition, said the
task force is considering reaching out to local churches or synogogues and
asking them to help house the people on an interim basis.
The task force, he said, includes representatives from the cities of Las
Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City and Mesquite, as well as
Tents along railroad tracks:
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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