[Hpn] Homeless Summit:Attendees disagree on meeting's progress;Las Vegas, Nevada

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Fri, 14 Sep 2001 14:26:18 -0400


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

Friday, September 14, 2001
Las Vegas Review-Journal <http://www.lvrj.com/>
[Las Vegas, Nevada]
HOMELESS SUMMIT: Attendees disagree on meeting's progress

Coalition plans six more months of gatherings


Months of planning for the region's first Homeless Summit on Thursday 
resulted in a plan for six more months of meetings to design a course of 

After an eight-hour meeting in which homeless people sat with politicians, 
advocates and service providers, several participants said they came away 
with a better understanding the valley's homeless problem.

"Today the community came together, we shared our views, disagreed on a 
reasonable basis," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "I'd say we made 
absolute progress."

The summit, organized by the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition 
Homeless Task Force, was not intended to produce immediate answers, but to 
build consensus on how to move forward in finding solutions, Goodman said.

But the lack of concrete recommendations left some participants skeptical.

"These discussions could go on for a month, meeting eight hours a day," said 
Brian Brooks, project director of Nevada Health Centers Inc. "There are so 
many complex issues, but the suggested fixes were somewhat vague."

A 1999 University of Nevada, Las Vegas study found that about 7,000 homeless 
people live in the valley -- most near downtown Las Vegas -- but there is 
not nearly enough shelter space. Las Vegas officials believe the city bears 
an unfair burden in assisting the homeless, so the task force is seeking a 
regional solution.

Participants, sitting at tables of eight to 10 people, prioritized 
preselected solutions to about six homeless problems. The rankings will be 
tallied and presented in an October report to the planning coalition.

Homeless advocate James McGinnis said he was pleased homeless participants 
were well-received, but he wasn't impressed with the summit's lack of 
immediate results.

"It's all wait-and-see," he said. "That's all it is."

Maria Garcia, a resident of the MASH Village shelter, said she felt "a lot 
of love in the room," even though she sat next to Goodman, with whom she 
often disagreed.

"I wanted to just let them know homelessness is like a sickness that happens 
when your mistakes have become such that you feel bogged down," she said. 
"We all bleed red. We all make mistakes. (Goodman) just needs to learn a 
little compassion."

Danielle Turner, Henderson grants coordinator, said the most useful part of 
the summit was hearing the needs of the homeless directly from them.

"I learned we need shelters that operate 24-7," she said after hearing Cort 
Ryalls, a homeless man, describe how difficult it is to find a place to 
shower in the evening to get ready for a graveyard shift. "They need to be 
able to sleep in the day for when they get off that shift."

Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny, in discussions at her table, suggested 
homeless services might better serve the population if they were set up more 
like a college campus.

"When you have a campus you create a community. You could have the social 
services, a Quick Care (health care center), school and provide more 
opportunities for people," she said.

"And put it in a wealthy neighborhood," McGinnis suggested.

Ryalls said most homeless people don't care where the homeless services are 
as long as they include access to transportation.

"Put it anywhere you would like as long as we have a ways and means to get 
to work," he said.

North Las Vegas City Councilwoman Stephanie Smith said she was disappointed 
in the process that left people guessing how the region would move forward.

"It seems like it was a lot of talk," she said. "Everybody had experience 
and everybody had an opinion. But we just had blanket solutions to choose 
from: Should we do A, yes or no? I found it very limiting."

Several participants, however, said the summit helped get "everyone on the 
same page" for addressing homelessness.

"I felt comfortable with the process and with the ballots, meeting on a 
monthly basis from now on," said Lisa Spencer, community involvement center 
director for Westcare. "All those voices are being heard."


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

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