NEVADA – Washoe County commissioners voted Tuesday to approve an ordinance prohibiting non-recreational camping, a proposal proposed by the sheriff in order to allow his staff more leeway in cleaning up homeless encampments in the county’s unincorporated areas.
If enacted, the proposition would change Washoe County statute to make “unauthorized camping and storage of personal goods that may pose a danger of serious harm” illegal.
Washoe County has passed an ordinance prohibiting non-recreational camping.
Violators would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $500.
Sheriff Darin Balaam said that the proposal aims to give his deputies the authority to eliminate dangerous areas after his homeless outreach team has exhausted all other options.
There is a very small percentage of people experiencing homelessness who do not want services and do not want to relocate.
“We’ve thrown every resource at people experiencing homelessness who are camping out, and we offer services, but now they’ve created an environment that’s not only dangerous for themselves, but it’s dangerous for the entire community, and it gives us the ability to get them out of there so we can clean it up.”
Balaam stated that he requested this rule after seeing his deputies struggle to clean up massive homeless encampments east of Sparks and in Sun Valley. Balaam stated that without this rule, deputies would have little legal recourse despite attempting for weeks to convince residents to use existing resources.
The proposal infuriated homeless advocates, who turned out in force to oppose it at the board of county commissioners meeting on Tuesday.
During a lengthy public comment period, representatives from the ACLU of Nevada, Faith in Action Nevada, Family Soup Mutual Aid, and the Fines and Fees Justice Center expressed their opposition.
Many people opposed the proposal, claiming that it would criminalize homelessness and that the fines would disproportionately burden the most vulnerable people, who are already struggling financially.
“There is nothing moral, safe, or peaceful about fining and imprisoning impoverished people for just existing in public,” Family Soup Mutual Aid’s Nichole Anagepisis said. “It makes me sick, aggressive, and lustful.”
Sheriff Balaam stated that comparable rules exist in Reno and Sparks, implying that this ordinance will put unincorporated Washoe County in line with neighboring jurisdictions.
When pressed about fears that the measure might lead to more detention of the unhoused, Balaam stated it would be a last resort and a lot of money to do it.
“Everyone has a different tale and is at a different point in their journey, so I’d hate to uproot them,” Hill added.
Yes votes were cast by Commissioners Vaughn Hartung, Bob Lucey, and Kitty Jung.
Even yet, chair Hartung voiced suspicion when he asked Sheriff Balaam to explain what would happen if someone was convicted under this ordinance.
“Assume we’ve arrested someone. Does that become part of their permanent record?” Hartung inquired, and Balaam replied that it would.
Because you’re homeless? Is that the crime?
A spokesman from the Washoe County District Attorney’s office stated that his agency would be able to return to the board with a draft ordinance within 90 days, at which point two new commissioners would be appointed.
The bill would have to be passed twice more before it would take effect.
Credits: My News 4
Copyright 2022 775 Times, NV Globe. All rights reserved.