[Hpn] Folding the tents: Homeless people at center of dispute;Las Vegas, Nevada

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Mon, 18 Jun 2001 15:14:29 -0400


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-------Forwarded article-------

June 18, 2001 at 10:31:51 PDT
Las Vegas Sun <http://www.lasvegassun.com>
[Nevada]
Las Vegas News section
Folding the tents: Homeless people at center of dispute
<http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-other/2001/jun/18/511969771.html>

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" 
to go.

"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 
Coalition, said.

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 
renovate.

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 
beds.

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 
there.

"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 
Southern Nevada.

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 
Clark County.



Photos:

Tent City:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-other_cut/2001/jun/18/c00026112.html

Tents along railroad tracks:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/lv-other_cut/2001/jun/18/c00026113.html


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Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA


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