Several Nevada mayors gathered here Monday to support a proposal that would funnel $20 million over two years to local governments to help eradicate homelessness.
The mayors said it makes economic sense to fund transitional housing and other services such as drug abuse counseling to get homeless people of streets.
Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson said his city has seen success with a
transitional housing program, but hasn't be able to house as many people as needed because of lack of funding.
"What we have found is that when we provide the opportunity for
housing, many of the problems seem to solve themselves. When people
are given an opportunity and a means by which they can address some
of their own problems, it's amazing how many of them can do it," Gibson said, adding that not doing something will still cost local governments millions.
Each homeless person uses on average of about $40,000 per year in local resources such as jail, court time and medical expenses, according to Shannon West, chairwoman of the Nevada Interagency
Council on Homelessness.
Joining Gibson were Reno Mayor Robert Cashell, Carson City Mayor
Marv Teixeira, Boulder City Mayor Robert Ferraro and North Las
Vegas Mayor Michael Montandon.
Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, is the main sponsor of the
funding measure, AB126. She urged funding advocates not to lose the
momentum created by a homeless tent city in February, when lawmakers and homeless advocates spent a snowy night in boxes and
tents on the Legislature's lawn.
"We see every day in the mental health courts what a difference housing makes," Leslie said, adding that with the right services, chronically homeless people have been able to get of the streets permanently within two years.
The bill would provide funding for transitional housing and services such as medical, mental health treatment, and substance abuse treatment.
Nevada has the second highest percentage of homeless people in the country on a per capita basis, with about 16,000 homeless people at any given time.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)