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Comments by YACCS
Friday, July 28, 2006

The coldest city in America

Monica Almedia/The New York Times

Recipients of Ms. Sacco’s handouts say that they
are far from shelters and that they get little public assistance.

Las Vegas Makes It Illegal to Feed Homeless in Parks

Published: July 28, 2006

LAS VEGAS, July 21 — Gail Sacco pulled green grapes, bread, lunch meat and, of course in this blazing heat, bottles of water from a cardboard box. A dozen homeless people rose from shady spots in the surrounding city park and snatched the handouts from her.

Recipients of Ms. Sacco’s handouts say that they are far from shelters and that they get little public assistance.

Ms. Sacco, an advocate for the homeless, scoffed at a city ordinance that goes into effect Friday making it illegal to offer so much as a biscuit to a poor person in a city park.

Las Vegas, whose homeless population has doubled in the past decade to about 12,000 people in and around the city, joins several other cities across the country that have adopted or considered ordinances limiting the distribution of charitable meals in parks. Most have restricted the time and place of such handouts, hoping to discourage homeless people from congregating and, in the view of officials, ruining efforts to beautify downtowns and neighborhoods.

But the Las Vegas ordinance is believed to be the first to explicitly make it an offense to feed “the indigent.”

The ordinance does not apply to the famous Las Vegas Strip, which lies mostly in unincorporated Clark County, but it demonstrates both the growing pains the city has endured as tourism has boomed, and the steps Las Vegas is taking to regulate where entrenched populations of homeless people can gather. And eat.

“The government here doesn’t care about anybody,” said one homeless woman, Linda Norman, 55, taking a bottle of water and already perspiring in morning heat approaching 100 degrees at Huntridge Circle Park, a manicured, well-watered three-acre patch of green in a residential area near downtown. “We just want to eat.”

Las Vegas officials said the ordinance was not aimed at casual handouts from good Samaritans. Instead, they said it would be enforced against people like Ms. Sacco, whose regular offerings, they said, have lured the homeless to parks and have led to complaints by residents about crime, public drunkenness and litter.

“Families are scared to go to the park,” said Gary Reese, the mayor pro tem and a City Council member who represents the area around Huntridge Circle Park. The city, Mr. Reese added, had just spent $1.7 million in landscaping and other improvements there.

“I don’t think anybody in America wants people to starve to death,” Mr. Reese said. “But if you want to help somebody, people can go to McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken and give them a meal.”

It costs $75 to get a work ID, essential for any decent job in Las Vegas.More than one person has moved there to get a job, only to not have the money for an ID. No ID no job.

posted by Steve @ 2:18:00 AM

2:18:00 AM

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