Warren comes out against Las Vegas plan ‘to criminalize homelessness’

warren at bonanza
(Nevada Current file photo).
warren at bonanza
Elizabeth Warren prior to addressing a rally at Bonanza High School in Las Vegas in April. (Nevada Current file photo).

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her opposition Wednesday to a proposed City of Las Vegas ordinance that bans those experiencing homelessness from camping and sleeping on public sidewalks, becoming the second presidential candidate to weigh in.

The ordinance, which is expected to be discussed Nov. 6, makes it a misdemeanor to sleep or camp in public right-of-ways if there are available beds at emergency shelters or space open at the open-air Courtyard Homeless Resource Center. People could be penalized with up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who sponsored the ordinance, said it was designed to connect people to resources within the homeless corridor. While civil rights groups, county officials, homeless outreach workers and national homeless advocacy groups have decried the effort saying it would be harmful, businesses have urged the council to pass the ordinance.

“We should be fighting back against measures that criminalize homelessness – not proposing ones that will only perpetuate it,” Warren said in a statement. “I strongly oppose this proposed ordinance, which caters to the interests of business groups rather than our families and our communities.”

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro spoke out against the proposed ordinance at an Oct. 2 protest alongside homeless outreach workers and civil rights groups.

Of the nearly 6,000 people who experience homelessness on any given night, more than 60 percent are unsheltered.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that cities can’t punish people for sleeping on the streets if they don’t have an adequate amount of shelter space. The city’s ordinance is carefully worded so it doesn’t go into effect until shelter beds are open.

“These measures disproportionately harm communities of color and LGBTQ+ people, who as a result become further entangled in the justice system and face more barriers to finding supportive housing,” Warren said in her statement. “We must focus on investing in affordable housing and supporting programs that will connect people experiencing homelessness with the tools and services they need to get back on their feet.”

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.