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Las Vegas hires nonprofit to run homeless Courtyard

Updated March 4, 2020 - 5:11 pm

The city of Las Vegas has decided to again turn over operations of the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center to a nonprofit.

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a five year, $14 million contract Wednesday for the nonprofit Chicanos Por La Causa Nevada Inc. to operate the open-air Courtyard at 1401 Las Vegas Blvd. North downtown. The nonprofit will assume control of the center on April 1.

Under the terms of the contract, the city will pay CPLC Nevada no more than $2.8 million a year to operate the secure facility where the homeless can sleep and access resources.

The North Las Vegas nonprofit will be the third vendor hired to run the 24/7 center since the low-barrier shelter opened in July 2018.

Less than five months after inking a two-year contract to run the center, the city paid the nonprofit Southern Nevada Community Health Improvement Program nearly $48,500 to terminate it. A social worker who served as operations manager after CHIPs was terminated later left amid a dispute over overdue payments to subcontractors, prompting the city to take over operations of the Courtyard.

Rapid growth prompts change

“We certainly have learned quite a bit over the last two years, and we have set those expectations and have conveyed that to our new operator,” Kathi Thomas-Gibson, the city’s director of community services, told the Review-Journal.

The city or operator can terminate the terms of the contract for any reason. The nonprofit can terminate the contract without a penalty within the first year.

At the time the city took over Courtyard operations, it indicated it would continue to run the center until construction of expanded facilities is completed in 2021.

But Thomas-Gibson said the number of people being served in the Courtyard grew rapidly and is now averaging more than 300 a night.

“We pulled city staff away from other work, and it’s grown faster frankly than I anticipated,” she said. “That’s a good thing. That’s a good problem to have. We really are serving many more people, and we need to get that permanent team in place.”

When the expansion is completed, the Courtyard’s occupancy will be approximately 800 guests, subject to approval by the city fire marshal, according to the contract.

Because of the growth, the Courtyard’s budget has increased from about $3 million originally to $4.3 million the second year to $7 million this year, city spokesman Jace Radke said.

Thomas-Gibson said the contract will free her team to work on other pieces of the homelessness problem, like transitional housing and procuring master leases with landlords.

Operator’s experience stood out

She said CPLC Nevada was selected from three nonprofits because it has experience with the affordable housing component and workforce training and understood that it must be a “wet shelter,” meaning people could come in regardless of sobriety.

“Our working motto has been ‘hired, housed and healthy,’” Thomas-Gibson said. “This particular provider gets that, they have a track record in that area. The capacity of this new provider will make it a smooth transition.”

The new operator will work with Nevada Health Centers to oversee the new federally certified health center on campus to address people’s needs, including medical, mental health and addiction services.

Thomas-Gibson said that under the new contract, the operator will shadow the work of the existing Courtyard workers, who are temporary employees, for 90 days. The existing Courtyard employees will remain in their positions under the new contract.

“We’re not just throwing them the keys and walking away,” Thomas-Gibson said.

The city will pay CPLC Nevada $237,627 a month to coordinate housing opportunities, social services, create partnerships with service providers, schedule mental and physical health appointments, hydrate the guests, maintain the grounds and enter clients into the Homeless Management Information System, among other duties.

Jocelyn Bluitt-Fisher, the city’s community services administrator who oversees the courtyard’s operations, will work with the organization’s president, Rupert Ruiz, on operations.

While the nonprofit will establish relationships with service providers, Bluitt-Fisher will make all final determinations regarding partnerships and services provided at the Courtyard.

Calls to Ruiz for comment for this story were not returned.

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

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