Homeless would get protection to sleep on streets, in cars if proposed Nevada bill passes

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 12:48 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A bill before the legislature addressing the issue of homeless encampments or the unhoused sleeping in cars is getting a lot of chatter and heated debate, possibly curbing the power of local governments from forcing people to quickly move.

Proposed Nevada Senate Bill 155 states the following: “Prohibit a county board of commissioners and the city council from enacting and enforcing any ordinance that discriminates against a homeless person... prohibiting a homeless person from engaging in life-sustaining activities in a public space, including... resting.... sheltering from the elements... eating... accepting or giving food in public spaces... occupying a motor vehicle.”

Clark County recently conducted a Homeless Survey to track if the number of people living on the streets has risen since 2022. Locals have noticed a rise in encampments in suburban areas, with a recent economic downturn.

Advocates for the unhoused argue that “sweeps” to clear encampments cause people to lose their IDs, clothes, money, belongings, and even tents to sleep, without providing an alternative resource. When people are forced to move, outreach workers can no longer find them.

“We’re all a few bad months away from potentially being houseless. These are people with no other options, and they’re not getting a lot of help, they’re not getting services. The sweeps destroy a sense of community. It makes them harder to find work, it makes it harder to have any stability, and it continues the process of dehumanization,” said Shaun Navarro with the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists.

The LVDSA has been putting together a “Sunday Solidarity” service project for the past two years on the West Side, helping distribute supplies and offering resources. More people than ever recently showed up for their latest event, and supplies and donations are needed.

Officials opposed are worried about potential risks of encampments: sanitation, waste, and spread of disease. FOX5 also covered the concerns over the homeless in tourist areas such as the Strip, and Clark County deployed teams of social service workers for interventions to provide resources.

“Is this the answer to that problem? We should be talking about mental illness, or we should be talking about temporary housing somewhere else,” said State Sen. Scott Hammond of Clark County, who has also seen the rise of encampments in suburban areas.

“It seems like the road we should be going down is not handcuffing county officials from figuring out how to police areas and keep them clean. I personally don’t want to see Las Vegas turn into what San Francisco has turned into,” Hammond said.

FOX5 reached out to the author Sen. James Ohrenschall, but has not heard back.