LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Following hours of public comment and debate, Las Vegas City Council approved a controversial homeless ordinance that would outlaw street and sidewalk camping.
About 6 p.m. Wednesday night, council members cast their votes before a passionate crowd.
Here is how the council members voted:
- Mayor Carolyn Goodman -- Y
- Michele Fiore (Mayor Pro Tem, Ward 6) -- Y
- Brian Knudsen (Ward 1) -- N
- Victoria Seaman (Ward 2) -- Y
- Olivia Diaz (Ward 3) -- N
- Stavros Anthony (Ward 4) -- Y
- Cedric Crear (Ward 5) -- Y
DAY STARTED WITH PROTESTS
Valley residents gathered at City Hall in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday morning to voice their opinions on a proposed homeless ordinance.
The City of Las Vegas introduced the bill on Sept. 25 that would make it a misdemeanor for homeless individuals to set up tents and makeshift shelters on city property.
At a City Council meeting on Nov. 6, residents protested inside the council chambers and on the steps of City Hall in opposition to the ordinance.
"Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The war on poor has got to go!" protesters chanted while inside the chambers.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman attempted to calm down the crowd, but protesters kept chanting over her remarks.
"That is a total rudeness and lack of respect for this community and the people you are purporting to represent," Mayor Goodman said to one protester, who she said would also be kicked out if she interrupted the meeting again.
She also asked anyone who "could not abide by the process of government" to leave the meeting so that everyone at the meeting could have a chance to give their public comments.
ONE-ON-ONE WITH MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN: https://youtu.be/ezrVA3fuXDE
"We need jobs in our community, the homeless need jobs in our community," one valley resident said during the City Council meeting. "Some states are giving homeless jobs to keep the neighborhood clean, so why can't we give our homeless people jobs so they can keep clean?"
Another resident who is a healthcare worker, George Allen, spoke at the City Council meeting. He said he was a member of the "working homeless."
Allen, who spoke to FOX5 on Tuesday, said he gets paid $11 per hour to help clients with tasks like getting dressed and eating, but has not been able to recover since the 2008 housing market crash.
"We need to be able to work together," Allen said during his public comments. "We need to be able to find a way, because if we can build stadiums, then we can build housing for the homeless.
"This is not just a problem in Las Vegas," he continued. "This is a national problem, and I want to support you to get funding, okay? Because it should be an executive order from the president to say, 'It's en emergency for housing and this country.'"
The proposed homeless ordinance has been met with varying reactions within the Las Vegas community.
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, the valley's largest homeless shelter, said the ordinance could pose a security risk at their facility.
"If we have capacity, it creates a security issue a lot of times if we try to put people in here that don’t want to be here," said Steve Schmitt, COO of Catholic Charities. "Depending on whether they are dealing with an addiction issue and so forth -- we just don’t have the capacity with 525 other guys here to take somebody that doesn’t want to be here and address that person individually."
Catholic Charities averages 95 percent capacity. The facility is typically full or near-full on a daily basis. Las Vegas Rescue Mission is experiencing the same thing. Their facility is 100 percent full for women, children and single fathers.
A study conducted by Safety.org calculated that Las Vegas was among the top 10 cities in the country with the highest homeless rate.
With a rate of about 272 homeless individuals per 100,000 people, the city of Las Vegas ranked seventh among the cities with the highest homeless rates.
CANDIDATES SPEAK OUT AGAINST MEASURE
Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her opposition to the proposed ordinance last month. Julian Castro, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden also announced opposition to the measure.
"We should be fighting back against measures that criminalize homelessness – not proposing ones that will only perpetuate it," said Warren in a press statement. "I strongly oppose this proposed ordinance, which caters to the interests of business groups rather than our families and our communities."
During the City Council meeting, one valley resident spoke to Councilwoman and Las Vegas Mayor Pro Tem Michele Fiore directly.
"I do not appreciate you rolling your eyes during my husband's speech," she said. "He had every right to say what he said, and as a minister, you should show him respect. Just like you demand from everybody out here - to show you respect."
Comments regarding the proposed homeless ordinance were expected to continue throughout the day.
LOCAL SUPPORT FOR THE MEASURE
Some downtown Las Vegas residents support city officials addressing the homeless issue.
“I’m glad that local officials are trying to address the issue,” John Paddy said.
Paddy moved in to a one story home a few blocks from container park in 2018. He calls the alley in his backyard “the homeless highway.”
“There’s such a large number of homeless that use this as a corridor to move through the downtown area,” Paddy said.
About a mile away at ‘Get a Cut’ barbershop on fourth and Bonneville, co-owner Traci Jones said some of the homeless population with mental health issues deter business.
“We’ll see them sleeping outside our doorway and if you ask them to move, you’ll end up with a big pile of defecation outside your business,” Jones said. She supports the proposal.
“I’m hoping that if they think there’s a possibility of a fine, they would not do it.”
In a statement released following the vote's passage, Warren said the measure is "a band-aid that caters to the interests of powerful business groups while doing real harm to Southern Nevadans."
Experiencing homelessness is not a crime, and drawing more people into the justice system will only perpetuate it. This measure isn't a real solution – it's a band-aid that caters to the interests of powerful business groups while doing real harm to Southern Nevadans, especially communities of color, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.
People experiencing homelessness need housing, not handcuffs. Instead of treating them like criminals, we should focus on connecting them with the resources they need to get back on their feet and investing in affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.
Thank you to all the local activists and organizations who stood up to fight back against this measure. I'm standing with you – this fight isn't over.
Battle Born Progress executive director Annette Magnus said in a statement the vote "demonstrates the undue influence of business interests and money in our local government."
Magus said they believe the action will be more costly in the long-run and will overburden local law enforcement. Details of how the measure would be put into action have not yet been released.
In a tweet, Sanders said it was not a solution:
We're in the middle of a national housing crisis.
Nevada has the greatest shortage of affordable housing for the lowest-income earners.
Criminalizing poverty is not the solution. When we win we are going to take on the greed creating the crisis and invest $32 billion to end it.