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LETTER: Las Vegas homeless ordinance an important step

My past includes stints as both an educator and a social worker. This gives me the perspective of how important it was for the Las Vegas City Council to pass the homeless camping ordinance (Thursday Review-Journal).

In Family Services, I would assist between 50 to 100 people daily. Many came with various issues, including health and mental problems. I would assist them with food and clothing and, of course, offer shelter. More than 70 percent refused shelter. They did not want the structure of a schedule — many did not want to shower, and others, after years on the street, were not trusting of anyone inside a self-contained area.

One case that I will not forget involved a single father living in his car with a baby. It was very hot that day, and he needed liquids for the baby. I informed my supervisor, hoping we could immediately get shelter for them. While I did this, the father quickly grabbed the liquids and took off. Later that evening, a newscast reported that the baby was found by police in the car in critical condition.

Then there were reverse outcomes: Those who stayed at the shelter and then found employment and housing.

So I do have a suggestion. Those who are taken off the street and into a shelter should within 24 hours receive a “straight talk” orientation from someone who has been through the same and is able to relate to what they are feeling and how that can change. Perhaps we could also borrow from Alcoholics Anonymous and assign them a buddy throughout the process.

If this is all done, I believe Las Vegas could become a model for other communities.

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