First a gate – now an ordinance? City shields business from homeless Las Vegans

Big beautiful gate and homeless will pay for it
The Las Vegas City Council approved the gate in August to buffer area businesses from what the city calls the "corridor of hope." (City Council PowerPoint map)

The City of Las Vegas is not only building a “no pedestrian access” gate, it is also proposing a separate punitive ordinance to keep homeless Nevadans away from a business.

Earlier this month the city voted to erect the gate on Foremaster Lane on the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard in an attempt to confine pedestrian foot traffic within what the city calls the “corridor of hope.”

A proposal this week would add a section to city municipal code making it unlawful for a person to sit, lie down or camp on a sidewalk within 1,000 feet of any receiving dock of a food processing facility. The city’s PowerPoint presentation used during discussion of the gate earlier this month singled out Anderson Dairy on the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Foremaster Lane. People often seek shade on the sidewalk on the north side of the dairy building.

No one at Anderson Dairy responded to the Current’s request for comment.

The ordinance imposes a punishment of up to a $1,000 fine and not more than six months in jail.

The item was sponsored by Councilman Cedric Crear, Councilwoman Michele Fiore and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian.

Through a city spokesman, Crear and Fiore declined to comment on the ordinance.

Councilmembers were scheduled to discuss the item at the Aug. 15 meeting. However, it was rescheduled for Sept. 5.

In the past, the city has struggled with how to respond to homelessness, in particular those who stay on the streets of Foremaster Lane. Former Mayor Oscar Goodman previously said that filth and human waste was an “immediate health problem” for Anderson Dairy. “The homeless say they eat pretty good here and that nobody bothers them. Well, I’m going to bother them,” Goodman said in 2002.

Las Vegas has one of the highest per capita homelessness rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

The 2018 Southern Nevada Homeless Census found the number of homeless individuals during the point in time count decreased to 6,083. Of that, 3,884 were unsheltered.

Recently, the City of Las Vegas has been focusing on the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center as a potential solution. Modeled after Haven for Hope based in San Antonio, the facility provides access to a variety of services from medical and mental health assistance to document retrieval. The most frequently provided services at the center have been a bus ticket out of town.

In July, the Courtyard transitioned to a 24-hour model to allow individuals to sleep on a mat in the open air – the current capacity is about 100 people. Unlike shelters, there isn’t a sobriety requirement for those wishing to stay.

A few days later, the city expanded the Courtyard’s hours, and the council voted to erect a gate at the entrance to Foremaster Lane between Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and The Courtyard – Foremaster is one of the streets in the corridor that has long been used by individuals experiencing homelessness as a place to sleep.

City officials said the gate, which has an estimated cost between $39,000 and $45,000, is needed because it’s a component of the Courtyard’s master plan and would address concerns from surrounding businesses — Anderson Dairy is across the street.

Officials also said the gate would improve pedestrian safety.

“We’ve seen it where pedestrians run out on Las Vegas Boulevard when folks come around to give some things out,” Michael Janssen, the director of public works, said during the Aug. 1 meeting. “This will allow some of that control to be maintained on a less traffic-heavy street.”

The gate was initially supported by Catholic Charities, but at the Aug. 1 meeting the organization asked for a 90-day abeyance to address concerns about how clients would access services.

“We don’t know what this fence would do to pedestrian traffic,” said Steve Schmitt, the chief operations officer at Catholic Charities. “At this time, it’s difficult for us to see people accessing services if they are closed in on Foremaster.”

However, the city council voted 5-2 to move forward with the gate. Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Councilwoman Tarkanian voted against moving forward, arguing for a 30-day abeyance for Catholic Charities before proceeding.

“We are at DEFCON 10 as far as the homeless situation,” Crear said at the meeting. “We have to move forward.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

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