[Hpn] Leaders gather to discuss valley's homeless problem;Las Vegas;10/25/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Thu, 25 Oct 2001 10:27:51 -0400


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Thursday, October 25, 2001
Las Vegas Review-Journal <http://www.lvrj.com>
[Las Vegas, Nevada]
Leaders gather to discuss valley's homeless problem
<http://www.lvrj.com/lvrj_home/2001/Oct-25-Thu-2001/news/17301896.html>

Goodman offers list of short-term proposals to put in place as long-term 
planning continues

By JULIET V. CASEY
REVIEW-JOURNAL

Regional leaders took a hard look Wednesday at the valley's homeless 
problems, which became critical during the summer and probably will get 
worse as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Last week, MASH Village rousted about 150 people from their sidewalks, 
citing safety concerns. The shelter for women and children is full, and the 
winter tent for 250 men won't open until December because of a lack of 
funding.

The shelter shortage was exacerbated Oct. 1, when the Salvation Army 
eliminated 130 of its 190 emergency beds because donations dropped following 
the East Coast terrorist attacks.

During a meeting of the Homeless Task Force on Wednesday, regional leaders 
received a report that summarized the results of last month's Homeless 
Summit. The report included six solutions, with a series of action plans 
that will take three months to three years to complete.

"I'm not bought that any of these can be done in three months," said County 
Commissioner Erin Kenny, a member of the task force. "It seems to me this 
puts us smack-dab into January, and we're still not taking any immediate 
action."

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who chairs the task force, maintained his 
stance that the city would help only those who can't help themselves and 
those who want help. For those who are able-bodied and still refuse services 
and refuse to integrate into society, Goodman said he "would like to kick 
them as far away from Las Vegas as possible."

And before proposing a list of short-term proposals to put in place as the 
long-term planning continues, Goodman said he expects to see the valley's 
homeless population increase. The mayor alleged that Salt Lake City law 
enforcement officials within the past six weeks have been distributing to 
the homeless there bus tickets to Las Vegas. He would not divulge his 
source, but he said he "has it on good authority."

Goodman suggested creating a regional trust fund to pay for homeless 
services. He said he plans to address the valley's immediate needs for the 
homeless by calling on the governor to initiate crisis outreach for the 
mentally ill. He also wants to increase the police presence in the homeless 
corridor just north of downtown to provide "some assurances that businesses 
will be able to flourish unfettered from outside forces."

That suggestion drew sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union 
of Nevada.

"I'm telling you, I hope there will not be a single arrest until there is a 
shelter space for every single one of these homeless people," Gary Peck, 
executive director of the ACLU of Nevada, told the task force.

After the meeting, Peck said that "until the city provides some place for 
all the homeless people to go, any attempt to harass or arrest them would be 
a violation of their civil rights that will not go unchallenged."

During a brief news conference outside City Hall, Goodman said his proposal 
to increase police patrols does not suggest he wants police to arrest the 
homeless.

"I want a police presence to help people when they are in trouble, not to 
arrest them, ... (unless they) are misbehaving," he said.

The task force called for a revision of the report to include some of 
Goodman's suggestions and to provide specific information, including the 
number of outreach case workers, the number of beds available for the 
mentally ill and an action plan for training and finding jobs for the 
homeless.

Among the proposals in the report that drew praise from community activists 
were those dealing with keeping people housed, especially those leaving 
hospitals, prisons and jails, and children leaving the foster care system.

For those leaving prison, the report suggests providing outreach and job 
training before release, and substance abuse and mental health treatment 
that would be part of a "re-entry plan."

Mercedes Maharis, a prison rights activist, said in a phone interview 
Wednesday night that ex-convicts comprise a significant part of the valley's 
homeless.

"Right now, I don't see that there is any discharge planning in the prison 
system," she said. "We see people coming out of the jails and prisons with 
no legal identification, no money, no place to go and no hope. (The prison 
system) basically oils the revolving door."

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



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