Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 2018

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Community forum discusses homelessness in the Las Vegas Valley

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L.E. Baskow

Homeless camp out on the sidewalk as the city of Las Vegas is undergoing a $15 million project to create a “homeless camp” where the homeless can stay and get connected to services along Las Vegas Boulevard from Owen to Foremaster on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

Can the private and public sectors work together to help alleviate homelessness in Las Vegas? That was the question when the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance held a community forum May 3 to discuss homelessness in the city’s urban core. The event brought together social service authorities to discuss downtown’s new homeless services courtyard in the Corridor of Hope, as well as what business owners can do to help those in need.

Kenny Wilson, CEO of San Antonio’s Haven for Hope (upon which the Las Vegas courtyard is based), explained that understanding what led a person to become homeless is an essential part of any action plan. “Every person is different,” he said. “They’re individuals. They’re not commodities, they’re not units; they are people who have encountered something. ... It’s about trauma and mental health.”

Addressing the issue of street feeding, Deacon Thomas A. Roberts, CEO and president of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, said people who want to help the homeless should instead volunteer at a charity or shelter, which encourages individuals to seek help off the street, rather than enabling them to stay there. And for business owners who often interact with the homeless, Las Vegas Community Resource Manager Kathi Thomas-Gibson says the homeless outreach team (702-229-6673) should be your first call, not the police. “We like to separate crime from homelessness,” she said. If someone is committing a crime, “that’s a police call,” but if someone is simply sitting in an establishment, the outreach team can help with connecting an individual to a service provider and even assist with safe transportation.

For more information on the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, visit downtown.vegas.