Thursday, May 25, 2006

Circle Park Meeting
re: Homeless "Problem"

Sunday, May 21, 2006 Food sharer cited at Circle Park.

Monday, May 22, 2006 Food sharer cited at Circle Park.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 FNB supporter arrested for "graffiti" for writing on concrete in Circle Park with colored CHALK:

Food is a Right, Not a Privilege;

Food Not Bombs;

All we want to do is eat.

So remember folks, Hopscotch is not allowed in Circle Park!

Response to Resident
by Mom Friday May 26, 2006 at 12:20 AM

I live there by Circle Park Resident Thursday May 25, 2006 at 05:49 PM

Resident: I'm glad I found an online discussion on this issue. I attended the neighborhood meeting yesterday which the mayor attended. I thought that everyone got a fair chance to express themselves on this issue, including the homeless themselves, who are most directly affected.

Mom: I was also at the meeting and I think it went well. Yes, I think everyone who wanted to speak (who was there) got a fair chance to express themselves. (But it definitely was not advertised enough.) And also, one meeting is not enough, in my opinion. I think we should have more meetings before a final decision (on whatever that might be) is made at a city council meeting.

This one meeting last night basically let the few neighbors vent. And it did also give the homeless a chance to defend themselves. But a few of the neighbors who spoke went to the extreme, imo. For example, the mother who said that she can't take her child to the park because the homeless "look" at her child. Don't all human beings look at other human beings during a course of a day, everyday? It sounded like she was trying to make all homeless people into pedophiles. I will give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she was just nervous about speaking. But pedophiles can be anywhere. There is not a bigger percentage of pedophiles in the homeless community. Unfortunately, some people are intiminated by anyone who is different from them or different from who they have been used to being around.

The other extremist was the guy who wants to round up all the homeless and bus them to Utah. Sheesh, I feel sorry for anyone who has to live or work with him.

God, I'm more comfortable around the homeless and needy than I am around uppety-up folks. I have found the oppressed to be more humble, more honest, sometimes more outspoken but only to the point of telling it like it is. I have more to fear from politicians, lawyers, business owners, etc. because it seems they always have a greedy agenda.

There are good people and bad people in the homeless community- just as there are good people and bad people in the non-homeless community.

All the homeless ask for is to be allowed to survive and die with dignity. And it helps when they know someone cares about them.

Resident: Basically, the residents feel like they've lost their neighborhood park because they are afraid to go there and be around all of the homeless. While they certainly aren't all bad people, drug and alcohol use, lewd acts, etc. are happening in the park, which would discourage any parent from bringing their children there.

Mom: I understand that some of the residents are intimidated by the homeless. And I absolutely agree that drug and alcohol use is bad news. Lewd acts, imo, and from what I've been told are far and few between. And lewd acts would most likely be committed by the mentally ill. And this is just another issue that the city, county, and state have not adequately addressed.

Resident: I do agree that the city doesn't have a good plan to help the homeless, and DIY efforts shouldn't be criminalized. However, to wait until the homelessness situation improves for us to have a park we can use is too much.

Mom: You do have a park that you can use. The neighbor gentleman who has been in the area for years suggested that the neighbors SHOULD use the park. I agree with him. The more people who use the park, the safer the park would be. Try using the park and you will see that most of the homeless would be very respectful in allowing you to have your space. Anyone who bothers you for a cigarette or money, and you don't want to give them any, just say, "No, sorry, I can't today." Say it everyday if you want. Most will be very respectful about this. Any illegal (drugs, alcohol, sex) activity should be discouraged and reported.

The city (the city attorney and the mayor) has metro and the marshals actively enforcing laws which criminalize homelessness, ie. laying on a blanket, sleeping, eating, standing in the park. These are all innocent actions which no one should be cited or arrested for.

If the city put that much effort into social services throughout the valley, and also focused on "real" criminals, Circle Park and all neighborhoods, AND the majority of the decent homeless folks would benefit. Even the homeless do not like being around other homeless who are not considerate of others.

I will say though, in the past year that I have been going to the park, the biggest problem is with the mentally ill (number one), then the drug users, and lastly the severe alcoholics who ALSO are mentally ill.

But I will add that I truly believe that ALL of the above have a right to daily food, water, shelter from the heat and cold, a safe place to sleep, and relieve bodily functions. If they want to go to work- which many do, they also need a place to shower and shave, and a safe place for them to leave their few personal belongings.

Resident: One proposed solution was to make Circle Park a children's park, where unless you are with a child, you cannot visit this park. Although this is a harsh measure, banning many residents along with the homeless, it does two things - makes Circle Park a place where kids can play as well as keeping our neighborhood from being an epicenter for the homeless population.

Mom: I spoke with the homeless today and even they do not think this would be fair to most of the neighbors. They believe the park should be used by the neighbors, the children, and the homeless. Even if this park was made into a children's park, it would be a VERY dangerous park for children in the middle of two very busy streets. This would only be done as a way to get rid of the homeless there.

Your comment about Circle Park being an epicenter for the homeless population is something I would like to address. I don't believe that "Circle Park" is an epicenter. I think we have to learn the facts. I don't even know all the facts. However, say we have over 10,000 homeless people in the Las Vegas Valley. X amount are mentally ill. X amount are heroin users. X amount are meth users. X amount are chronic alcoholics. X amount at little or no fault of their own became homeless. X amount are veterans with low income. X amount of veterans are homeless because of an experience directly related to the military. X amount come to this city and blow all their money in the casino. (Many of these folks are the easiest for us to help because with a little help, they get back on their feet, get a job, make a little money and GO back home.) X amount want to be homeless- free.

Then we have to look at the resources: social services, catholic charities, st. vincent's, las vegas rescue mission, shade tree. We also have some places who pack in the homeless for $100 a week each to share a bed with the bed bugs, spiders, and mice. Then we have the "individual" folks who share food, water, clothing, their own homes for individuals to take showers, etc.

But getting back to the "epicenter". We have 64 parks in the city. And the beautiful parks are where the homeless would rather be than sleeping in the alleys with the brown recluse. Yes, I've seen a lot of spider and ant bites. And there is more chance of violence (committed by the non-homeless gangsters) in the alleys. Most of the folks will tell you that they feel safer in the parks.

Sorry, I got off track. Basically, my point was going to be to compare the number of homeless to the number of beds in the city for the homeless. And I think it is unrealistic for the city to think that the majority of the homeless should all go up to Owens and Main Street area for food, water, shelter, sleep, showers, and social services.

Resident: I know there are no easy answers, but discussion is good.

Mom: I believe that there is no one way of ending homelessness- or minimizing it.
I do believe that it has to be a collective effort. Many individuals have taken on the responsibility of helping anyway we can. Food and water, imo, is a priority. We cannot help dead homeless folks. We have been working day and night, 7 days a week with food, water, clothing, jobs, identification, mental health, drug rehab, taxi-cabbing, bus tokens, and housing with no city, county, or state funding.

The non-profit organizations who received the $3 million dollar grant are overloaded with clients. The non-profit shelters are doing what they can or want to.

We need more resources from the city, county, and state. We do NOT need more law enforcement citing and arresting homeless (on a daily basis) for innocent actions.

Re: DIY efforts shouldn't be criminalized.

I agree. The DIY efforts are needed because the government cannot or will not take care of the many issues of homelessness. Criminalizing innocent actions or humane actions only promotes the hatred, misunderstandings, and animosity between the homeless and non-homeless. Even most of the marshals don't want to be giving out these citations. The "good" cops and marshals are being used as a buffer between the city and the homeless. And the non-homeless residents are being used as a buffer between city and the homeless. This is just a distraction from the fact that the city, county, and state has inadequate resourses.

Oh wait, let me take that back. This city has plenty of money to sell govt. land to outside high-rise condo builders, take property by eminent domain for casinos, give land to outside contractors for a baseball park, build a new arena, etc., etc., etc. but they don't have the resourses to build real affordable housing (not $710 per month rent) or give us more locations for social services.

I still believe there are plenty of answers out there for us all to research and work together. We must be persistant TOGETHER to encourage the city, county, and state to do more. Also, community and individuals must be willing to help and not totally depend on government.

I don't think that the Circle Park or any other city park should be an all or nothing deal. I think we can figure this out so everyone can benefit in one way or another.

Resident, thanks for posting your comments. Please know that my long-winded note is/was not directed AT you. You've given me the opportunity to voice my opinions. And I may be naive or even wrong. But I am certainly willing to work toward positive solutions.

Thanks, Mom

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