Las Vegas passed a law that functionally makes homelessness illegal by banning public sleeping if there are shelter beds currently available (spoiler alert: there likely is always shelter beds available somewhere, but that’s not the issue).
“On Nov. 6, the City Council is slated to vote on an ordinance that would make it illegal to camp or sleep on the streets in parts of the city. Drafted in September, the ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to rest, sleep or “lodge” in Las Vegas’ downtown district and other residential areas if shelter beds are available. Those found in violation could be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to six months.”
In a separate article they wrote:
“Las Vegas will join scores of cities to impose similar ordinances when the ban takes effect Sunday. At least 160 cities across the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, have prohibited camping, sitting or lying down in public spaces or outdoor areas, according to a 2016 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty report.
Supporters say the ordinance will help keep homeless people safe and connect them with services, while also protecting businesses and residents who say the encampments negatively affect their property.”
The supporters are completely wrong. This will not help homeless people. If anyone earnestly believes this would help homeless people, they have never thought longer than five seconds about what the lived experience of homelessness is.
When you’re homeless, you’re constantly managing elements necessary to your survival. When you’re homeless, you have to keep many things in mind, planning things in the future, and adjusting plans based on the past.
For example, what if you stayed at a shelter for a month. During that stay, a couple of your belongings were stolen. On the last night, someone gets pissed off at you and hits you. The person who hits you gets kicked out of the shelter. Where are they supposed to go?
Not only that, but let’s imagine that you also leave the shelter, because after having your belongings stolen, getting hit was the last straw, and you reasonably believe you might be safer sleeping on the street for a bit. Where are you supposed to go?
What if you were across town getting food, and missed the curfew at your shelter? What if you reserved a bed at a shelter, then found somewhere else to stay, and weren’t allowed to have a bed the next night, due to reserving a bed and not using it? What if you got caught smoking weed outside the shelter you’re staying at?
This could go on and on. If you’re homeless, there are a million reasons why you might not be able to stay at a shelter, why you wouldn’t want to stay at a shelter, why you’re able to stay at a shelter but unable to make it there etc.
The reason this policy exists is to stratify class lines. If they criminalize homelessness, they’re making it much more likely that homeless people remain homeless. They can’t get an apartment or job if they’re constantly getting fines and jail time for existing, let alone with the everyday things homeless people otherwise have to struggle with.
By cementing homeless people in their homeless class, its an implicit promise to the insecure middle class that they will remain middle class. It’s a statement of “don’t worry, these people won’t move upward socially, they’ll stay homeless and won’t take your house or job.” It’s a statement of “don’t worry, we’re going to guarantee they’re locked up in their shelter, so you can’t see them, or be effected by them in anyway.”
Capitalism is currently in crisis, and the way reactionary forces manage that crisis is by consolidating and attempting to monopolize power. The easiest way to maintain capitalism in crisis, while also remaining capitalistic, is by stratifying class boundaries, and freezing the movements of the free flow of capital. This is an attempt to economically quarantine the homeless into an open-air class prison.
And this will only get worse.