Clark County leader proposes ‘liquor fees’ as residents call for solving homeless problems

Clark County leader proposes ‘liquor fees’ as residents call for solving homeless problems
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 11:43 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Neighborhoods in Clark County are seeing growing homeless camps, and one leader says there needs to be a way to fund more solutions through a proposed “liquor fee.”

Commissioner Tick Segerblom tells FOX5, communities and strip malls along various washes are seeing growing camps. Businesses and neighbors have voiced concerns. He cites one reason: enforcement teams have been effective at moving the homeless out of The Strip, Downtown and other tourism corridors, but many are being pushed into local neighborhoods. Other communities and cities across Clark County are seeing camps in suburban areas.

According to Clark County’s website, there are 5,600 people who are homeless on a given night, and 3,200 beds are available. There is enough housing for 3,500 people who cannot afford rent. Clark County conducted a homeless survey to determine if the number of unhoused people is actually rising.

Segerblom proposes a liquor fee that’s similar to fees for marijuana sales, all to fund more social services. He said the county doesn’t have enough funds to fix the status quo.

“No one wants [the homeless around] which is understandable. But the solution frankly, is going to be some type of treatment and housing, and that’s going to cost money. Those are not cheap,” Segerblom said, also stating that it’s a problem that cannot be paid for by the state. “The state doesn’t have money right now, either. Our schools need money. Our teachers need money,” he said.

Would businesses back it? Segerblom said he knows the idea would be unpopular, but said the results are necessary. Segerblom said although the county commission could possibly pass the fee, he would propose it be approved by voters in a referendum.

“As you can see, we need to do something,” he said. “If [residents] knew it was well spent, and I think we want to make sure they know that it’s being used efficiently and effectively,” Segerblom said.

Strip malls near Desert Inn Road and Pecos Drive are seeing growing homeless camps near the wash and along a local trail, and several businesses told FOX5 that workers and customers are concerned.

“If they’re passed out, out here, my customers don’t want to walk past that. They’ll turn around and go somewhere, where they don’t have to deal with it,” said Melody Shelton, a bartender at Rum Runner. She said she personally doesn’t feel unsafe and helps homeless individuals seek shelter from the rain at times.

“For the most part, they’re just down on their luck or they’re mentally ill, and we don’t have any services for them.” What does Shelton think about a proposed fee? “That would depend on what kind of a fee, how much of a fee. But if they’re just going to throw it towards what they’ve already been doing, I don’t see any purpose in that,” she said.

Segerblom said a shorter-term solution for the homeless is converting old motels into temporary housing with social services. Another facility is planned along Boulder Highway.