Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Tuesday released a statement railing against a proposed Las Vegas ordinance that critics say would “criminalize” homelessness by making it illegal to sleep in the streets when beds are available in nearby shelters.
The City Council is expected to consider an ordinance on November 6 that would make it illegal to camp out or sleep in the streets of the city and in residential areas “when beds are available at established homeless shelters,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Penalties include a $1,000 fine or six months in jail, NBC News reports.
Sanders came out against the proposal with force.
“Homelessness isn’t a crime, it’s a symptom of the greed that is destroying housing in America,” Sanders said in a statement, according to the Hill.
“We are in the middle of a national housing crisis, with Nevada having the greatest shortage of affordable housing for the lowest income earners, while the wealthiest have it all,” he continued. “That has got to change.”
According to the Hill, the Sanders campaign is planning to “utilize its email list to urge residents to attend a rally outside Las Vegas City Hall on Wednesday, when the city council is set to vote on the proposal.”
However, some councilmembers say that the ordinance is not intended to “put folks in jail.”
“This ordinance is not to put folks in jail,” Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review.
“It’s to help them get them where they need to go and not have the encroachment upon businesses where you have folks sleeping in doorways,” she added.
Councilman Brian Knudsen said:
I look at this as an effort of desperation, really, to try to figure out how to manage a situation that is almost unmanageable. The city’s taking really proactive steps, but it’s not enough, and it’s not fast enough.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman also rejected the implication that the proposed ordinance will hurt the homeless population.
“The city believes the ordinance will be a benefit to the homeless population, while at the same time protecting the health and safety of the entire community,” Goodman said.
“The city has always demonstrated compassion for the needs of the growing homeless population, understanding the public safety of everyone is a top priority,” she added.
Sanders has declared the public housing crisis one of his top priorities, pitching a $1.5 trillion housing plan and calling for a “homes guarantee.”
“In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right,” his campaign website states.
Sanders has faced backlash on the campaign trail for what some have described as his campaign’s tone-deaf moves, reportedly displacing part of the homeless population to hold a rally in Sacramento, California, in August.
The socialist senator was also criticized by residents of Queens, who claimed that he largely ignored them, despite holding a rally in the area because it is, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) described, “ground zero for the fight for public housing.”