Nevada NewsMakers

News - December 28, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Clark County could soon announce a major private/public proposal to construct housing for the homeless in Las Vegas, Clark Commissioner Jim Gibson said on Nevada Newsmakers.

"So we have identified some properties, BLM properties around the valley that are in Clark County and our proposal will include building or converting current facilities for some number of homeless people," Gibson said.

"(We are also) encouraging the development by the development community on some attainable and affordable housing, and finding resources to make those profitable enough to where there is a value proposition in it for the private sector."

Gibson stressed that the proposal won't succeed without buy-in from the business community.

"Government just can't do it all by itself," he told host Sam Shad. "But (we are talking about) a series of initiatives that are both government initiated, funded and managed with the business community in partnership with government.

These are things we are discussing in real detail and we will be doing some things, actually I think we are moving to try and put something on an agenda (soon)," he said.

Gibson said he has had a number of meetings with fellow Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick about the subject.

"Fundamentally, we've got to have a place for them," Gibson said about the homeless. "We've got to have housing for them and we have a shortage. We are down to zero, in terms of housing.

The 2017 census counted 6,490 homeless people in Clark County, according to Las Vegas news reports.

Other statistics suggest the problem may be larger.

Clark County ranked No. 3 in the nation in the number of unaccompanied homeless children and youth living on the streets and in shelters, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Only San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles rank above Las Vegas.

More than 14,000 homeless youths are estimated to be enrolled within the Clark County School District, according to local news reports.

"It is all how you define the homelessness," Gibson said of the discrepancies. "But we have thousands. Six thousand is the number that comes to mind. But I don't know if that is everyone.

"You know, the school district has a definition, and I think in their definition, if you reside in a daily or weekly, you are considered homeless," Gibson said. "But fundamentally, if you don't have a roof over your head and a place to prepare a meal, then you are really homeless."

When planning for the future, Gibson said Clark County must always consider the water issue. Yet the thousands of homeless residents in the Las Vegas Valley cannot be ignored.

It can be an expensive area for housing. Average rents in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas hover around $1,000 a month, according to various rental-property web sites.

"Attainable and affordable (housing) needs to be built into -- at least some portion --  of what we are going to do," he said of future planning. "We have a population of people here who cannot afford housing. It is not attainable for them. And the homeless population will be the group of people who will have to be afforded the right kind of coverage.

Gibson search for a word in describing the situation.

"I don't know if opportunity is the right word because the opportunity is very limited. I just know that we need to deal with homelessness and all of that will be part of the discussion in terms of growth," he said.

Finding shelter is not the only issue among the homeless, Gibson said.

"Now getting a home, or getting a place to be, a shelter is only a part of it," he said. "There are multiple issues, health issues, mental health issues that all have to be addressed. But the beginning point has got to be, getting something over their heads."