Huntridge Park has been whether fortunate or not, been the epicenter for outreach groups who offer free meals and other services which many in the area have cited as the cause for the sharp increase in the park’s homeless population. As a former park commissioner who represented ward 3, I always struggled with this predicament and always stated the following: That while the intention is good and humane, my position is we must encourage outreach, but change the outreach location. The city of Las Vegas has for years offered locations in downtown that are well equipped, well stocked, and appropriate locations where folks could get long term solutions for their long term problems. I’m afraid the park or the city’s sidewalk is not the appropriate location. The increase in serious issues at Huntridge Park has been clear and continued encounters with exposed needles, human waste, and public bathing has yet to seize. As a candidate for the Las Vegas City Council who would represent ward 3 in east Las Vegas and downtown, public safety, squatters in vacant properties, Huntridge Park, and crime have become a top priority. I am no stranger to these issues as my close relationship with law enforcement and my neighbors have led me to believe that these problems are only increasing. Residents don’t need to attend police briefings to see Huntridge Park struggling. Friends, we need decisive action and we need it now.
There is no magic wand to solve the problem. However, during my years as commissioner, I made certain that our city’s deputy marshals made their rounds in the park to ensure a presence of safety not solely for homeowners, but also for those in our indigent community. Unfortunately troubles have continued to simmer. With the rise of bike chop shops, public bathing, alcohol use, and indecent exposure made public we must do more! I am calling for the city to reevaluate Huntridge Park’s hours, perhaps limit the days it is open, and look into a public/private partnership program as they do in San Diego, so the community has more flexibility as to what happens at the park. In addition to this, as painful as this is for me to say, I call on the city to temporarily close Huntridge Park until our neighborhood associations coupled with city staff direction determine a way to mitigate the problem. The community needs a breather to evaluate our situation! I argue that if the park is closed, we will slowly but surely encourage our most vulnerable to seek help elsewhere.
Friends, we must be decisive and firm in assisting our most vulnerable into seeking long term help at the appropriate facilities. What took place earlier this month to Shevaun, is depraved and incomprehensible. The community is outraged and I for one am livid at what took place in our neighborhood. Outrage must be met with solutions otherwise words evaporate. As 2019 approaches, I will be looking forward to the completion of the city’s new homeless campus located on Foremaster and Main Street. In closing, we must do more and act! I will continue to pressure our elected leaders to listen, consider, and act. We must act before violence and insecurity become the norm.
By: David Lopez, for Las Vegas Newspaper