The Henderson City Council at its June 6 meeting will consider a bill that would amend municipal code to outlaw camping in public places, a move that would affect the city’s homeless population.
The changes to the code would expand the city’s definition of camping to mean sleeping outdoors at any time, setting up or using structures such as tents as “temporary living accommodations,” making a campfire or cooking outdoors on a personal stove or barbecue or on park barbecues in a way that violates the city code.
If amended, the code would outlaw camping in public parks, public rights-of-way, public buildings and public land. Exceptions are limited to emergencies such as natural disasters or permits from the city manager or the director of the city’s parks and recreation department.
Enforcement of violations would include police letting the violator know they’re in violation of the municipal code, finding out where available beds in Southern Nevada are, telling the person breaking code to go somewhere else and arresting them if they refuse.
Aaron Sheets, chief operating officer of Henderson-based nonprofit HopeLink Southern Nevada, commended the city for its past efforts to help the homeless.
HopeLink frequently works closely with the city, he said.
“We’ve worked with the city very closely, they are good people and they’re trying to solve these problems,” Sheets said. “They care about everybody in the city of Henderson, including those that are unhoused.”
The nonprofit organization Henderson Angels brings blankets, food, water, sanitary products, medical supplies and other resources to Henderson’s unhoused population, alongside offering first aid to homeless people, according to founderPaul Maxwell.
Sara Hall, program director for nonprofit Henderson Angels, said the city should consider the homeless community when making any changes that could affect that population.
“I would urge them to consider that these people are human. And everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” Hall said.
Maurice Wimberly, a homeless man, said he hopes the city doesn’t change how it treats him, but says he is prepared to weather any changes.
“(Henderson Police) are very nice. They’re very, very respectful. They speak to you all the time. Ever since I left Las Vegas and came to Henderson I feel like this is where I want to live,”he said.
Wimberly said he avails himself of existing resources that support the local homeless population. Among them: St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, which offers food, clothes and classes to local homeless people. Wimberly regularly attends the classes, adding that they are helping him work toward no longer being homeless.
“The situation, it can be worse, but it hasn’t gotten to that point yet. So when it does, we’ll just have to deal with it,” Wimberly said.