Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Day & Night Centers or Closing Parks?

December 4, 2006

Rather than debating the character of all homeless people or what they deserve and what they don't deserve, I think (for this article) it would be in the best interest of all to stay focused on the issue of Huntridge Circle Park.

I'm sure that it is possible to come up with a compromise that would be suitable for the homeowners and, the homeless and poor people.

We know from statistics that Huntridge Circle Park and the neighborhood around it has no more crime than any other area of town. We also know that it is unconstitutional to discriminate against a whole group of people because of their financial standing. Thus, you cannot tell homeless people or poor people they cannot use the park.

If someone is commiting a crime, the police should be called and that person should be arrested whether they are homeless or non-homeless.

Homeless and crime is not synonymous. Much of the crime in a one mile radius of Circle Park is against the homeless. And the crime is not committed by the homeless. And most of this violence against the homeless is not even reported.

All homeless people are not dangerous. Most homeless people are not dangerous. In fact, most who I know would be the first to protect your child from danger.

Having said that, I do understand the concern that if there are people sleeping all through the park, you can't have a soccer game. So, how much room do you need to play soccer? I mean, this park wasn't built for soccer games but I'm sure we could designate part of the park for soccer, and the rest of the park for the general public.

One of the biggest problems we have is that homeless people are not allowed on private property and they are not allowed on public property. They are arrested for trespassing while walking through a store parking lot. They are arrested for sitting on a bus bench. They are arrested while sleeping on the grass in the park. How do we expect them to "get a job" when they are continuously being arrested for non-violent offenses? If they are not allowed on private or public property, where do you want them to go? No, they are not going to Utah. And if they don't want to go to the shelters, they do not have to. And they are not going to just disappear.

The neighbors of Circle Park say they do not want the public park to be solely used for social services. I agree. Parks should not be used solely for social services. However, that is where poor people go. And that is where we can find them to offer them a helping hand. The more outreach, the more chance of minimizing homelessness.

Giving someone a sandwich and a drink does not make someone want to be homeless. It gives us a chance to get to know each other, and possibly give them one step up off the street.

If you don't want them in our neighborhood then we have to give them a "somewhat" appealing place to go. More appealing than the park. A place where they can get social services, mental health care, medical care, identifications, job training, affordable housing, food, water, laundry facilities, and a shower. One area of town for social services is not enough for 18,000 homeless people.

It does not matter whether you think they deserve this or not. Out of 18,000 people, if they have access to daily outreach, daily social services, it is quite possible that we might be able to get a good percentage of them off the streets and better their quality of life.

So even though they have a Constitutional right to be in the public parks, if you don't want them in our neighborhood, they must have a suitable, alternative place to go.

For years and even to this day, the City and Metro are conducting homeless sweeps in the Owens and Main Street area. These daily and weekly sweeps are dispersing the homeless throughout the valley and into our neighborhoods. The City says they want the homeless to go to this area of town to obtain social services. The neighbors of Circle Park say they want the homeless to go to the shelters in this part of town.

Well then, if you all want to get them to stay in that part of town, the homeless sweeps must stop. The police harassment must stop. If you expect them to stay in that area of town then the City, County, and State and the shelters need to make that part of town safer for the homeless and poor.

Which brings us to the closing of Circle Park. If the homeless are not allowed to frequent Circle Park, they will be walking through our neighborhoods more often trying to find a warm place to get out of the wind, and a safe place to lay their head.

Closing Circle Park will not get the homeless out of our neighborhood. Only by working together to obtain multiple, safe Day and Night Centers (with trees and grass) with all social services available at each location will we begin to minimize homelessness. These Day and Night Centers need to be located in different parts of the valley: North Las Vegas, Henderson, Green Valley, Summerlin, and the Downtown area of Las Vegas.

If we are to minimize homelessness, we need to break down barriers rather than build more barriers. And continuously passing unconstitutional laws is just making it more difficult for homeless and poor people to get out of poverty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had the great joy of traveling to Las Vegas, land of Hizzoner & his wild approach to fixing homelessness (aka Giant Roach Motels), this May. I was there to meet my aunt, an incredible woman who has lived on the streets for 30 years, 10+ of which in glorious Las Vegas. She has told stories in her mail of all sorts of abuse--most of which seem to come from the people who should be "safe." She tells stories of the shelters, which she avoids because it would mean she's separated from her (would be common-law) husband. Bottom line, I learned a lot from her--and learned that she's living in a very difficult place on many levels. I would love to thank Gail Sacco and all of the others who continue to stand up for her rights. Thank you.