Amid protests and boos, the Las Vegas City Council voted Wednesday to ban homeless people from sleeping on some city streets - a controversial measure that critics have called a “war on the poor.”
The new ordinance, passed at a contentious council meeting, makes it a misdemeanor for homeless people to camp or sleep on the streets if beds at established shelters are available. The new restrictions would apply to certain parts of the city’s downtown area, not the Las Vegas Strip, Reno Gazette Journal reported.
Officials argued the legislation was “aimed at getting the city’s homeless population off the streets and connected with services,” Fox 5 reported. But Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I), a sponsor of the bill, and the City Council faced a raucous demonstration from activists as the law passed 5-2.
Demonstrators flooded the chamber with chants of “Housing not handcuffs! and “Hey hey, ho ho - the war on the poor has got to go!”
Goodman, the mayor, portrayed the new law as “the beginning seed to build something that will flourish,” according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
“This is flawed,” she said, “but it is a start.”
The law goes into effect Sunday but would not be enforced until Feb. 1, 2020, the Journal reported.
Violators could face up to six months in jail or fines up to $1,000.
Numerous Democratic presidential candidates spoke out against the ordinance, ahead of and after the vote, including Julián Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary, who toured homeless encampments in Las Vegas earlier this year and spoke at an October protest outside city hall.
“This ordinance won’t help reduce homelessness-it will criminalize it,” Castro tweeted. “Punishing desperation isn’t good policy, it’s shortsighted and cruel.”
Other 2020 contenders, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, also slammed the law in tweets and statements.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said the ordinance “caters to the interests of business groups rather than our families and our communities,” while former vice president Joe Biden said it “effectively criminalizes homelessness” and that “we should focus on providing housing first and work to find long-term solutions to end homelessness.”
Earlier this year, President Trump pushed for a crackdown on homelessness in California, and administration officials had considered plans to relocate people from the streets of Los Angeles and other cities to government-backed facilities.
“You take a look at what’s going on with San Francisco, it’s terrible,” he told Fox News in July. “So we’re looking at it very seriously. We may intercede. We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up. It’s inappropriate. Now, we have to take the people and do something. We have to do something.”
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