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Possible campus of homeless services considered for downtown Las Vegas

Creating a “campus” of homeless services, a storage facility for their belongings and a mental health hub are among the ideas that have been floated to help the homeless population and curb chronic homelessness in downtown Las Vegas.

A group of more than 80 people — representing service providers, local law enforcement and formerly homeless people — gathered downtown Thursday afternoon at the third in a series of city-sponsored brainstorming sessions to try to redesign the city’s “homeless corridor” to better serve the city’s homeless population.

Organizers emphasized “actionable” solutions that can eventually be presented to the City Council and implemented, rather than just meetings that lead to more meetings.

“They want to get something done,” said Rick Van Diepen, principal in the Las Vegas consulting firm Greenview Global, who led Thursday’s session, about the city.

Foremaster Lane near Main Street in particular, where “tent cities” have risen over the years despite past efforts to cut back on the number of people living on Las Vegas city streets, have at times flummoxed local officials. The city has made efforts over the years to get people off the streets, but homeless people staying along that stretch have re-emerged.

Participants in last week’s meeting called for safety upgrades along Foremaster between Main and Las Vegas Boulevard, including increased lighting. Much of that stretch abuts Woodlawn Cemetery’s south edge.

Homeless people are drawn to that area partly because of a cluster of shelters and homeless services where they can find food and a respite from the outdoors.

Signs and a pathway system that can direct people to different services — shelter, restrooms, a clinic — were also a priority.

Last year’s Southern Nevada Homeless Census and Survey gave a point-in-time count of 7,509 homeless people in Southern Nevada. Of those, 3,916 people were unsheltered, an increase of 422 people from the count in 2014. The survey estimated 34,397 people in Southern Nevada experienced homelessness in 2015.

Even just outside the site of Thursday’s meeting, it was clear homelessness persists.

As city stakeholders brainstormed in the Historic Fifth Street School, at least three different people slept just outside in Centennial Plaza, either on benches or the ground.

Participants at this week’s meeting urged the inclusion of more members of the homeless population in devising a remedy.

The conversations are focused on homelessness in Las Vegas in general, and Foremaster Lane specifically, which has emerged as a sort of “homeless corridor” in the city.

Terry Lindemann, executive director of Family Promise of Las Vegas, emphasized that the local homeless population isn’t just single men and women. Family Promise is a nonprofit that provides short-term shelter, meals and case management to struggling families.

Participants in Thursday’s meeting called for more of a focus on single parents with children, more services that cater to transgender homeless people, and a clinic where people can receive quick medical care or a mental health assessment.

According to last year’s homeless census and survey, nearly 200 families with children are homeless in Southern Nevada.

Drawing in more “success stories” — people who pulled themselves out of homelessness on the streets of Las Vegas — is also an important group to consult, they said.

In the past, one of the major concerns among the local homeless population has been the availability of restrooms.

Van Diepen showed a photo of portable urinals in Amsterdam that don’t offer a lot of privacy but could provide an option for when public restrooms aren’t available.

“We’re trying to get really inventive here,” he said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Find @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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