Homeless urge Nevada lawmakers to form advisory panel
Jacob Davis loved the streets.
Arrested over 40 times for drug-dealing, armed robbery and assault, Davis, 16, said he enjoyed returning from juvenile prison beds to living homeless in Reno.
“The drugs and the money and everything I did was all I wanted to do,” the broad-shouldered teen told Nevada lawmakers on Monday.
Davis credited a Reno family services organization for eventually turning him around — and urged legislators to do more for troubled homeless like him.
Davis, now set to graduate early from Washoe High School, was among more than a dozen homeless people and advocates who convinced the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee to support a statewide homelessness advisory committee.
The 19-member panel created by AB259 would try to raise awareness of homelessness, search for corporate grants and foundation funding for homeless services groups, and research specific needs.
State Human Resources Director Mike Willden said his agency has already crafted an “action plan” on homelessness through an informal advisory committee.
“This will put some oomph in it,” Willden said.
The governor-appointed committee, to include lawmakers, local government officials and homeless advocates, also would provide much-needed communication between state agencies and nonprofit groups.
Linda Lera-Randle El, a Las Vegas homeless advocate, told lawmakers she spends up to 18 hours a day just helping people on the streets find services they need.
“The services are actually there, the monies are actually there,” Lera-Randle El said. However, she noted that various nonprofit, faith-based, and government organizations are too fragmented to be easily accessible.
“The system is much more dysfunctional than any of the population out there ever thought that it would be,” said Lera-Randle El, adding that an advisory panel would help sort out such confusion.
Bobby Caldwell, a homeless man who frequents Carson City’s Jubilee Center, told legislators, “Don’t let Nevada be the one to follow. Let Nevada lead the war on homelessness.”
Caldwell and two dozen other homeless and advocates slept on the Legislature building lawn Sunday night in donated sleeping bags, as the Legislature declared Homeless Awareness Day in Nevada.
“It was a reminder for many of us what it’s like to sleep at night under the stars,” said brown-robed Franciscan Brother David Buer, whose Poverello House provides showers and meals to Las Vegas homeless.
The state estimates there are 22,800 homeless and “precariously housed” people overall in Las Vegas and Reno. The advisory panel bill by Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, would cost the state $10,000 a year. It was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
Parks is also backing another measure asking the state for $100,000 for two “Classroom on Wheels” buses providing school services to Clark County homeless youths. That bill and another establishing a toll-free “2-1-1” social services information hotline have yet to get a committee hearing. The hotline would cost Nevada about $1.3 million over the next two years.