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LETTER: Las Vegas shouldn’t criminalize homelessness

Re: Your Thursday story “Las Vegas to consider homeless camping ban in public areas.” I was one of the scofflaws who repeatedly violated the “quality of life” standards the City Council wishes to criminalize. I have been homeless seven times in six states, three times in Las Vegas.

Two incorrect assumptions are made regarding a solution to the homeless problem. First, that providing a home cures homelessness. Second, living on the street is a choice.

When individuals become homeless, they have been on a journey of loss leading to a lack of shelter. Along the way, they have suffered from the loss of a job or loved one or battled mental illness or addiction. Many of the homeless suffer more — if not all — of these maladies. Criminalizing sleeping on the street is making poverty, addiction and a life of loss a crime.

As a former homeless citizen of this community, I have many ideas about more effective programs to help this constituency. One thing is certain, making the living conditions of our most needy residents a misdemeanor will only add to the suffering and the stigma. We need to be heard not arrested.

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