Homeless People Could Pay the Price of Reno's 'Revitalization'

Reno is considering a law that critics say is a textbook example of the criminalization of homelessness and everyday life.
September 13, 2017, 5am PDT | Elana Eden
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As part of an effort to revitalize Reno's downtown core, business owners and city officials are moving to push out a growing number of people living on the streets. Next City's Josh Cohen reports:

The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to climb, sit or lay on public structures not 'designated for such purpose'; to spit on public property; sleep on public or private property without permission; use a cell phone while crossing the street; or sit or lay in Retrac Plaza, a large, open plaza in the heart of downtown. Violators would face a penalty of eight to 200 hours of community service cleaning up downtown.

Supporters say that by focusing on these "aggressive" behaviors, the law avoids targeting a class of people. But Cohen writes, "Though the ordinance focuses on some behaviors that aren't specific to homeless people, there's no question it is an ordinance targeted at people living and sleeping downtown, a group that some business owners see as an impediment to downtown revitalization plans and a new business improvement district to help fund it."

Advocates say the proposal is an improvement over previous anti-homelessness efforts, primarily because it would usher in a new police protocol to prioritize assistance over arrest. Cohen has his doubts: "the city's priorities are out of order, [and] without first addressing macro issues such as a lack of affordable housing and robust social services for homeless residents, the ordinance will only exacerbate things."

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Published on Monday, August 28, 2017 in Next City
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