Homeless advocate to receive national award

Linda Lera-Randle El has spent decades reaching out to the valley's down-and-out.

Now, a national group of public administrators is giving her a hand.

Lera-Randle El, founder and director of the nonprofit Straight from the Streets homeless outreach program, will receive the Social Equity in Action award from the American Society for Public Administration at its Sunday conference in Las Vegas.

She "was the unanimous first choice of the award committee," said James Nordin, treasurer of the ASPA's section on democracy and social justice. "She has devoted most of her adult life to the service and support of numerous social causes as a human rights activist and advocate."

Lera-Randle El, 61, has spent decades working to get chronically homeless Southern Nevadans off the streets for good. She also is known for taking her advocacy to the halls of local government agencies and to the doors of service providers when she feels they're doing less than their best.

She has received several other awards for her work, including national recognition in 2004 from the Points of Light Foundation.

Lera-Randle El is known as "the conscience of the Las Vegas community with regards to the chronically homeless, regardless of the politics" surrounding the issue, Fuilala Riley, vice president and chief operating officer for HELP of Southern Nevada, wrote in a nomination letter for the ASPA award.

Lera-Randle El's work with the chronic homeless began in the 1980s, when she and her father handed out boiled eggs and water to people living in homeless encampments, trying to connect them to other services.

She long worked without collecting a paycheck, using private donations to fund direct services for the homeless. Staffers from Straight from the Streets, including Lera-Randle El, often work nights and weekends "when other providers have clocked out," Riley said.

Lera-Randle El also organizes an annual vigil for homeless people who have died.

The award, from the ASPA's section on democracy and social justice, recognizes the actions of private citizens who excel in public service. Nominations come from the geographic area in which the organization's conference is held each year.

Lera-Randle El was grateful for the recognition but said social workers in various agencies and volunteers share the credit.

It's also strange to be acknowledged for work on a cause "that never comes to an end," she said.

"You don't know how much I would like to put myself out of business," she said. "I guess I'll just say, 'Thanks,' and keep trying."

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at lcurtis@reviewjournal.com.