Las Vegas among cities with highest homeless rates as shelters face capacity issues

Is Sin City in danger of being overrun by tent cities?

A new study places Las Vegas among the top ten cities in the nation grappling with the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Safety resource website Security.org recently compiled a list of the 32 cities with the largest homelessness problems across the country, finding most of the municipalities with the highest rates of homelessness were located out West.

"Among the major cities with the highest rates of homelessness, eight are in the West and four are in California alone," the report noted.

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Las Vegas ranked 7th among the cities with the 10 highest rates, with a rate of about 273 homeless individuals per 100,000 people.

Las Vegas ranked 7th among the cities with the 10 highest rates in the country in a recent study, with a rate of about 273 homeless individuals per 100,000 people, according to Security.org.

Las Vegas ranked 7th among the cities with the 10 highest rates in the country in a recent study, with a rate of about 273 homeless individuals per 100,000 people, according to Security.org. (FOX5)

In comparison, Los Angeles had a rate of about 397 homeless people per 100,000 people, while New York City had an average of 394 people using the same measurement. California and New York account for about 40 percent of total homelessness nationwide, according to the study.

Americans on average experience homelessness at a rate of 168.03 per 100,000 people -- a rate which has actually fallen by 6 percent in the past five years.

California and New York account for about 40 percent of total homelessness nationwide, according to a study by Security.org.

California and New York account for about 40 percent of total homelessness nationwide, according to a study by Security.org. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

"Only nine states have seen their homelessness rates climb over the past half-decade, but among the 10 states with the highest rates, half have posted increases in homelessness," according to the report.

Those nine states with homeless populations on the rise are Colorado, New Hampshire, California, Alaska, New York, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, and South Dakota.

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In Nevada, the largest homeless shelter in Las Vegas is already averaging about 95 percent capacity and is nearly full on a daily basis.

A proposal in Las Vegas that would make it a misdemeanor for homeless individuals to set up tents and makeshift shelters on city property if there is room at area shelters has drawn concern from groups such as Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, which operates the shelter.

“If we have capacity, it creates a security issue a lot of times if we try to put people in here that don’t want to be here,” Steve Schmitt, COO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, told FOX5. “Depending on whether they are dealing with an addiction issue and so forth -- we just don’t have the capacity with 525 other guys here to take somebody that doesn’t want to be here and address that person individually.”

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Schmitt also pointed to other issues with the proposed ordinance, mostly involving a failure to address mental illness or addiction.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has previously said the proposal is not about criminalizing homelessness but using a legal threat as a deterrent to setting up on city property.

“We’ve got to get people back to functioning and when they won’t come in for help, how do you do it. So the ordinance is to make the effort to find a way to have the homeless get into the courtyard,” she told FOX5 in September.

The Las Vegas City Council is scheduled to discuss the ordinance on Nov. 6 and hear public comment on the issue.