Sunday, January 22, 2006

Re: Metro's homeless liaison
still not hired, Las Vegas Sun

January 22, 2006

Open letter to Timothy Pratt, writer Las Vegas Sun

Re: Seven months after announcing its intentions to hire a first-in-the-nation homeless liaison, Metro Police still has not filled the position, an official said.

I'm wondering, who is testing and interviewing these candidates? Who would this liaison be working for? The City of Las Vegas or for Metro Police? I believe there is a difference.

This new position should be held by an unbiased individual working equally for the best interest of the homeless and non-homeless people of Las Vegas.

Re: Stoops said having such a person linked to a police department is vital because "the police are out there on the streets 24 hours a day and ... (this could) break down the barriers between the homeless and police."

If successful, he said, the program "could be emulated around the nation."

From what I have read on the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty there are already programs out there that Las Vegas could learn from.

1. Local laws that "criminalize" homelessness should be challenged and removed.

2. "Constructive Alternatives to Criminalization"

a. Build a Day Center open 8 am to 4 pm funded by business owners.

b. Written Police Protocol: before arrests or issuing any citations for misdemeanors: give a verbal warning to relocate; if that fails, issue a written warning to the homeless person; if that fails, the police officer must call an Outreach Team that can offer social service alternatives to the homeless person including a [free and safe] shelter bed [with free transportation to the shelter.]

However, if no shelter bed is available, any type of enforcement must cease immediately. If a shelter bed is available and the homeless person refuses to locate there, he/she can be cited, or left alone, depending on the discretion of the officer. Officers must document such encounters as part of their police records...

c. All homeless individuals should be treated with dignity and respect just as any non-homeless individual.

d. After any arrest of a homeless individual, all means should be taken to return all of their personal property, including their clothing, blankets, and identification. All persons should be released with a state issued laminated photo ID. If the individual did not/does not have a stated issued ID, the city or county should provide one immediately before release.

This should be witnessed and signed by a member of an Outreach Team who is not employed by the city, county, or state.

e. Mandatory training for police officers to increase awareness about the causes of homelessness, to learn alternatives other than enforcement action as a response to homelessness, and to teach the above (b) Written Police Protocol.

Our main goal should be to END homelessness with safe, permanent, affordable housing; quality, affordable medical care; and, jobs that pay a living wage. Shelters and Day Centers should only be used as an intermediary stage between homelessness and safe, permanent, affordable housing.

cc: Emmily Bristol, Las Vegas City Life;

Activists in Las Vegas Blog

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