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City works to assist the homeless

People turning abandoned mine shafts into temporary homes is one reason Boulder City officials are taking a closer look at the issue of homelessness in town.

Recently, City Manager Al Noyola put together a task force composed of staff from the Parks and Recreation Department, the attorney’s office, the courts and the police department to create recommendations on how to help the homeless. The task force consisted of 11 members and was led by Julie Calloway, Parks and Recreation manager.

“Our officers found people using mine shafts and camps that had been their ‘home base’ for months, even years,” Police Chief Tim Shea said.

According to Communications Manager Lisa LaPlante, the number of homeless people in town fluctuates.

“The most recent point-in-time count earlier this year found 12 people experiencing homelessness,” she said. “However, there has been an increasing concern in the community, especially on social media.

Shea said the police department recently sent officers to check on individuals who were camping on undeveloped land.

“We are concerned about safety and environmental hazards in these locations. Officers will work with the Bureau of Land Management to encourage the campers to find safe accommodations,” he said.

“As a group, we studied a number of approaches of other communities to find best practices to best fit our community,” said LaPlante about the task force, which began meeting Aug. 29. “Julie Calloway has been a representative on the Southern Nevada Continuum of Care board for several years. She leveraged her membership to get information on how to best alleviate homelessness and paired it with our Police Chief Tim Shea’s experiences in working with the homeless population.”

The task force created five recommendations to help: proactive enforcement of city ordinances, community engagement, city code update, progress evaluation and possibly a court program to help those who are repeatedly homeless.

To enforce city ordinances, Calloway said, the first task is to make sure signs at city parks are properly displayed so that people will know they close at 10 p.m. The task force also suggested changes to city code to ban public urination and defecation and firming up the camping rule to just certain locations.

LaPlante said that the signs have been ordered and staff is looking to propose ordinance changes in the near future.

The community engagement element includes creating and training an outreach team to share resources with homeless people and collaborating with experts.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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