Homeless advocates back $20 million proposal for housing of the indigent | NevadaAppeal.com

Homeless advocates back $20 million proposal for housing of the indigent

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal State Assembly members David Parks, left, and Peggy Pierce brave the cold with Jon Sasser of Washoe Legal Services during the "Tent City: A Night at the Legislature" event on Sunday. About 200 people camped out to bring awareness to homelessness issues.
ALL |

Homeless advocates, formerly-homeless-themselves government officials and even the police turned out Monday to support Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie’s proposed $20 million grant program to provide transitional housing and other support for those on the street.

AB126 was heard in the Health and Human Services committee the same day it was introduced. Advocates agreed with Leslie, D-Reno, chairwoman of the committee, saying the most critical step in helping someone who is homeless is getting them a safe place to sleep.

“When people are put into supportive situations, the success rate is 61 percent,” said Michael Stoops, of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

But he said the problem is growing, with the number estimated to be homeless up more than 9 percent over the past year.

“There are more animal shelters in this country than shelters for people,” he said.

He was joined by advocates from Washoe, Clark and Nevada’s rural counties who all said emergency beds are overloaded and that they need help funding transitional housing that can actually help break the cycle and get the homeless off the streets and make them again functioning members of society.

Reno Police Officer Patrick O’Bryan said housing is critical from his experience on the street.

“They’re not going to get better unless they’re safe,” he said. “The motels are not safe. The street is not safe.”

“You need to help me,” he said. “You need to help the rest of law enforcement so we’re not the point in addressing this issue. Send us out after the truly violent people who need to go to prison; not the homeless; not the victims of society.”

A number of the formerly homeless, including several teens, also spoke. James Walker, 50, said he and his daughter, Amy, spent more than half of her 10 year lifetime as homeless.

“We represented the full spectrum of need,” he said taking the blame for their situation. “I was a drug addict. I was unemployed, disabled, had emotional and psychological issues.”

But he said he was unable to break the cycle until Clark County homeless advocates helped him.

He said, he has broken the cycle, gotten a job and a home, and “managed to achieve a stable environment for my daughter.”

Leslie said after the meeting she didn’t anticipate a lot of trouble getting support for the bill in her committee. She said the challenge will come when it is reviewed in Ways and Means, which must find the money if AB126 is to be passed.