Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2014

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LV City Council addresses homeless issues

City gets HUD grant; council members express frustration about homeless downtown

Housing aid will soon come to Las Vegas residents who are struggling to find shelter or stay in their homes and who qualify for Housing and Urban Development grants.

The City of Las Vegas received about $6.5 million in HUD grants to aid the homeless, the working poor and those with AIDS.

The council approved the allocation of the monies at its meeting today, but the discussion quickly digressed into complaints about the homeless population at North Main Street, Owens Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard North, an area known as the homeless corridor.

"The problem that exists on these streets on a nightly basis has got to end," said Councilman Ricki Barlow. "There's well over 100-plus men and women in this corridor (who) are creating a major problem for business owners."

He said the city cleans the "defecation and urination" from this area on a weekly basis, but it doesn't improve. The area is taken over every night by barbecue grills and camps, he said.

"It's like a little town within itself," he said.

Mayor Oscar Goodman once again voiced his support for a site outside Las Vegas where the homeless could be taken, against their will if needed, to help rehabilitate them.

Frank Perna, an advocate with Southern Nevada Advocates For Homeless People, said the council should be helping to secure more help for the mentally ill. He said up to 50 percent of the residents of the homeless corridor have a mental illness.

"We need mental health professionals on the street to make an intervention there in good faith," he said.

Goodman said the human waste collected on the corridor creates a serious health threat, which could even trigger an E. coli outbreak.

"They can say I'm the meanest mayor in the world, but I'm here to protect the general welfare of the community, but these individuals don't want to be part of the community," the mayor said. "Let's get them out of downtown."

Councilman Gary Reese even cautioned citizens against giving aid to the homeless here.

"They think they're doing homeless people a favor by feeding them. All they're doing is perpetuating the problem," he said.

Barlow stressed that he is not "anti-homeless," but he wants to help the businesses in the corridor.

"When business is down across the globe, this is not the time we want for more businesses to shut down," Barlow said. "There has to be another level we take this to."

The HUD allocation includes $952,000 for housing for people with AIDS, $300,000 for a rental assistance program and about $226,000 for an emergency cold weather shelter.

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