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Las Vegas picks members of new regional group to fight homelessness

Updated September 4, 2019 - 6:39 pm

Las Vegas on Wednesday named its two representatives to a new temporary working group mandated by the Legislature to address homelessness in Clark County.

The group, which is required to be formed by Oct. 1, was created by the state Legislature in April after a bill that would have authorized tax increases to raise an estimated $20 million to address the county’s homeless was gutted amid concerns that government entities in Southern Nevada were not working together to address the issue.

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, offered the amendment creating the new working group after having conversations with municipalities about “whether or not they were working together around funding,” she said.

The Las Vegas City Council approved its representatives on the group: Shani Coleman, deputy director of government affairs for the city, and Deacon Thomas Roberts, CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.

But Mayor Carolyn Goodman expressed frustration that the Legislature opted for another study of the issue rather than provide additional funding aimed at reducing the county’s roughly 5,500 homeless.

“What happens is when there’s a new committee, they don’t realize they’re pulling people away from very significant work,” Goodman said.

Clark County last month appointed County Manager Yolanda King and Fuilala Riley, president of the nonprofit Help of Southern Nevada, to serve on the panel.

Boulder City chose its two appointments — Parks and Recreation Manager Julie Calloway and Beth Kaczmarski, vice president of finance for Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada — last week.

Henderson and North Las Vegas are expected to decide on their representatives at their City Council meetings on Sept. 18.

Mesquite has yet to name its members.

The group will work with the Continuum of Care Program, which is mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and consists of regional city officials, nonprofits and homeless advocates.

The Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition, another working group of elected officials created by state lawmakers in 1999, was formed in part to develop a regional approach to fighting homelessness. But it disbanded last week after determining that its efforts to address the issue and others it examined largely overlapped with the missions of other governmental bodies.

The new working group is charged with considering methods to reduce homelessness in Clark County, identifying sources of funding for programs to accomplish that goal, and submitting a report to county commissioners and the governing body of each city by Oct. 1, 2020.

Afterward, county commissioners will accept, modify or reject recommendations made in the report.

“I spent a lot of time on this bill at the Legislature, so I’m happy to continue to represent the city as we move forward with the other jurisdictions and develop a plan to address homelessness at a regional level,” Coleman told the City Council on Wednesday. “It’s a team effort. I’ll be up front, but everyone will be participating.”

“I just want to wish you all the best of luck, and I’m going to pray for you,” Councilman Cedric Crear responded.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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