Las Vegas’ Sleeping Ban Bill Takes Aim at The Homeless

Las Vegas’ city council will vote on Wednesday to ban public sleeping on sidewalks and streets. The new ordinance could criminalize homeless people if they do not comply with the new piece of legislation.

Why it Matters

The proposed law, which is supported by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman and was drafted in September, will make it a misdemeanor to “to camp or sleep in the public right-of-way, such as a sidewalk, in the downtown and in residential areas” if there isn’t any space left at local homeless shelters, according to astatement from the mayor’s office.

The ordinance, if passed, could fine those who violate the law up to $1,000 or place them in jail for up to six months. The only exception to this rule is if the Office of Community Services informs public safety that all homeless facilities are at capacity, the rule would become unenforceable, the Las Vegas Sun previously reported.

“The city believes the ordinance will be a benefit to the homeless population, while at the same time protecting the health and safety of the entire community,” Goodman said in a statement to the publication. “The city has always demonstrated compassion for the needs of the growing homeless population, understanding (that) the public safety of everyone is a top priority.”

Homelessness and Public Sleeping by The Numbers

  • A report from Help Hope Home found that there are 5,530 homeless in Southern Nevada. The report also states that only 40 percent of them were living in shelters.

  • There are at least 160 cities in the U.S., like Phoenix, Miami, and New Orleans have banned sleeping or lying down or camping in public spaces, according to a 2016 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NHLC).

  • A 2019 report from the NHLC also found that as of 2014, there has been a 34 percent increase of cities in the U.S. that have city-wide bans on camping, which is a 60 percent increase from these laws since 2011.

What they’re saying

The National Alliance to End Homeless said in a statement to The North Star that although it cannot comment specifically on the Las Vegas ordinance, other “ordinances criminalizing homelessness can, as a practical matter, interfere with communities’ attempts to reduce the number of people who are homeless.”

“Criminalization ordinances and practices create an adversarial relationship between people who are homeless, programs seeking to end homelessness, and citizens who are concerned with the well-being of homeless people, on the one hand; and law enforcement, the courts, city officials, and those who back the criminalization policies, on the other,” the statement read.

“This is exactly the opposite of what communities need in order to make progress on this issues: mutually respectful relationships that allow people to work together to create systems that quickly house anyone who ends up on the streets.”

What Can Be Done

Here are some organizations in Nevada that are tackling homelessness that you can get involved with:

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About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.