Help the Homeless or Criminalize Them? Las Vegas Debates Public Sleeping Ban

"There are not enough shelters,” a homeless man in Las Vegas said. “This is going to give you a fine you can’t pay, and then they’ll lock you up”

Sleeping on public sidewalks or streets may soon not be an option for homeless people in Las Vegas, NBC News reports. On Nov. 6, the City Council is slated to vote on an ordinance that would make it illegal to camp or sleep on the streets in parts of the city. Drafted in September, the ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to rest, sleep or “lodge” in Las Vegas’ downtown district and other residential areas if shelter beds are available. Those found in violation could be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months.

If Las Vegas moves forward with the proposal, it would be among scores of cities to impose similar bans. Supporters say the proposed ordinance will help keep homeless people safe and connect them with services.

But the move has met with sharp criticism from advocates for the homeless, who say it will burden the homeless with fines and criminal records that will make it harder for them to find jobs, save up for rental payments and receive government assistance. Critics note that the measure does nothing to address the issues that contribute to homelessness, such as the affordable housing crisis, unemployment and a lack of services to treat mental illness and substance abuse.

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