An ordinance about making sleeping or camping in downtown Las Vegas a criminal act was passed by the Las Vegas City Council. According to NBC News, violators will be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months.
This was a controversial ordinance as critics commented that it would “effectively criminalize homelessness in the city’s urban core.” The council-approved ordinance had a vote of 5-2. Those who were in favor of the ordinance were council members Michele Fiore, Victoria Seaman, Stavros Anthony, Cedric Crear, and Mayor Carolyn Goodman. On the other hand, those who were against it are Olivia Diaz and Brian Knudsen.
According to city leaders, this ordinance is necessary in order to address homelessness as a public health problem. However, according to The Nevada Independent, “the introduction of the law sparked a fierce backlash among advocates for the homeless in Las Vegas and nationwide.”
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“Help not handcuffs” and “Poverty is not a crime” were chanted by many protesters outside of City Hall ahead of Wednesday’s marathon meeting. “Housing not handcuffs! Housing not handcuffs! … Hey hey, ho ho — the war on the poor has got to go!” protesters yelled. In addition, Ron Moore, a resident of Las Vegas who has experienced homelessness, said “Homelessness is not a crisis because the homeless exist, homelessness is a crisis because the homeless suffer. We can do better than empty gestures such as this bill.”
Despite the many negative responses, there were also those who praised the ordinance, “especially as it related to homelessness as a hindrance to local businesses.” Moreover, the council members in favor of the ordinance said that the measure was “more nuanced than opponents made it out to be.”
The ordinance will be implemented in all downtown master-planned districts – not the Las Vegas Strip as it is overseen by a different jurisdiction. Deputy City Attorney Jeff Dorocak said the ordinance will be effective on Sunday, November 10th, and “an amendment to the ordinance says that the criminal penalty provision will not go into effect until January 2020.”