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VICTOR JOECKS: Henderson wants to make homelessness illegal again

There are many complicated public policy issues. Ending homelessness isn’t one of them.

Next week, the Henderson City Council will vote on a measure that will make it illegal for the homeless to live on public property. The ordinance would ban camping, making a campfire and maintaining personal property in public parks, public buildings and public rights-of-way.

The city is wisely addressing a major concern of residents. Over the past few years, the homeless population has become more noticeable in Henderson. It has been a common occurrence to see tents in parks and other areas. The city is far from Portland, Oregon, or San Francisco, but it’s also wise to avoid that path.

Those who violate the ordinance could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Before that happens, however, the police have to tell someone that they are violating the law. The police must give them the location of a shelter. The criminal penalties kick in only if someone still refuses to move on.

Forget studies, handouts and bloviating about affordable housing. This is how you end homelessness, assuming the ordinance passes and is vigorously enforced.

That’s what happened in the California city of Coronado. It has a similar law and offers services to help the homeless reintegrate back into society. As a result, homelessness there is virtually nonexistent.

Cracking down on homelessness works for several reasons. Many homeless are stuck in the throes of addiction and mental illness. Letting people waste away in this death spiral is cruelty. The Las Vegas-area already has empty shelter beds. They sit unused because many homeless people aren’t willing to give up access to the substances they abuse. Prohibiting camping on city property changes the equation. If homelessness isn’t an option, some will seek the help they wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.

Some will move to a different area. That’s not an ideal outcome, but Henderson can’t solve San Francisco’s problems. They will have accomplished their responsibility — improving their community. Others may go to jail. There’s lot of evidence that state psychiatric institutions would be a better solution in many cases, but that’s a larger conversation.

Finally, this law sends an important message: Living on the streets isn’t an option in Henderson, so make better choices now. Seek help for your addiction. Lean on family and friends.

The one thing that should be obvious is that the opposite approach — coddling the homeless — leads to more homelessness. Look up and down the West Coast. Widespread homeless encampments have turned once-beautiful cities into Third World countries.

I’ve criticized the city of Henderson several times over the past 18 months. But things are improving. It recently selected Hollie Chadwick as its new police chief. Unlike its previous chief, she’s widely respected by officers. This proposal offers hope the city is abandoning woke-ism to focus on making Henderson better for its law-abiding residents. Kudos to the recently elected Councilwoman Carrie Cox and Mayor Michelle Romero.

Coddling the homeless isn’t compassionate. Good for Henderson for taking the opposite approach.

Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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