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Days after appeal to not feed the homeless on the street, 3 cited for up to $1,000 fine

Local officials are asking residents to donate to Las Vegas-area organizations that help the homeless this holiday season, instead of giving food or items to people on the street. (File photo: KSNV)

Just last week in the hours before Thanksgiving, Clark County commissioners and police held a news conference and announced a website urging the public to not feed the area's homeless on the streets.

They pleaded with residents to donate to social agencies and charities that serve the homeless.

Las Vegas City marshals are backing up the effort with enforcement action.

The owners of three vehicles were cited Sunday morning for parking in a fire lane on Foremaster Lane near Las Vegas Boulevard, the growing epicenter for the area's homeless residents.

"It appears they were feeding homeless. It was drawing large crowds," Las Vegas spokesman Jace Radke said in an email to News 3. "As you know, the city and the homeless service providers welcome assistance but ask that it be through one of the providers. Street feeding is not something that is recommended."

It is unknown if the three represented any churches or organizations, Radke said.

"Those are misdemeanor citations and carry up to a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail," Radke stated. "A judge would determine what the penalty would be. There were no citations issued for feeding the homeless."

Joseph Sanchez says the citations were issued outside the CARE Complex, where he volunteers.

"It's really sad that the cops have to crack down on people giving out food," he said."

However, Sanchez says he knows it is better to feed the homeless in a controlled environment, off of the streets. At the same time, he says he feels for some of the people out there who have trouble making it to the charities for food.

"A lot of people around here are in their 70's, they're in walkers, they're in wheelchairs, some of them are missing a leg," he said.

Moving forward, he says if people want to help out, it's best to get in contact with nearby organizations beforehand.

"Give us a call, we'll open the gate and we'll have them pull in," he said. "Then it's easier to feed them that way."

Matthew Ferencevich is an advocate for the homeless. He says while the three people who parked in the fire lanes were violating the law, he wishes the situation was handled a bit differently.

"I think they shouldn't have been cited, I think they should have just been warned," he said. "Especially during the holiday season, say, 'hey guys, we can't be doing this.'"

Here's what a commissioner and a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department leader had to say last week:

“Giving spare change, food or clothes to a homeless person on the street may seem like a good idea, but that generous act can have unintended consequences that actually hurt our community and the homeless who we are trying to help,” “Instead, we are asking people to channel their donations to the programs and organizations that provide long-term solutions to homelessness. We are calling this responsible donating, and it will ensure that your donation makes a meaningful change in someone’s life.

-- Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick

“When we give money or food to someone on the street, we are helping them remain on the streets and deterring them from seeking out the services and programs that could help them escape homelessness. Also, too often the food, blankets and other items given directly to the homeless on the streets end up creating a significant amount of trash and other health and safety issues for the homeless. For example, we have seen people darting across busy streets and getting into fights over sandwiches someone is handing out.”

-- LVMPD Deputy Chief Chris Jones

The video about how to "donate responsibly" can be seen here.




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