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November 12, 2019 by  
Filed under Community

Calling out disparities in Las Vegas

Our eyes tell the story: there appears to be an increased number of homeless people on the streets of Las Vegas, especially in the Historic Westside area. We know that Nevada has been ranked among the top 10 states with a worsening homelessness problem, but some see other forces at work locally: are homeless people being forced into other parts of the city, giving the impression of an increase?

Recently, the Las Vegas City Council proposed a controversial ordinance that would make it illegal to sleep in the public right-of-way in downtown Las Vegas or residential neighborhoods near downtown — subjecting violators to fines up to $1,000 or even possible jail time.

Let’s break it down: the latest census tallies African-Americans at about 8% of Las Vegas’ overall population, while North Las Vegas is ranked as having the highest concentration of African-Americans in Nevada at 19.77%. According to, Nevada has 252 homeless people per 100,000 total residents — and 32.7% of the homeless people in Nevada are African-American.

In that light, those who remember segregation in Nevada — or know its history — are wary of the “forced relocation” proposals on the table. Think about it: for a homeless person without transportation, both the Historic Westside community and North Las Vegas are within walking distance from downtown. After all, large numbers of homeless people are rarely seen on the Strip and other sections of Clark County like Summerlin, Centennial Hills, The Lakes, Red Rock, and The Ridges.

There is a homelessness crisis sweeping America — particularly in the West — but outside of Nevada there seems to be more of an intellectual approach to combating homelessness, which stems from socioeconomic challenges like poverty, mental illness, unemployment, and addiction.

So, as the City of Las Vegas moves to criminalize homelessness — rather than putting programs in place to help people — there needs to be an awakening as to how we define home and who protects it.

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