Proposal aimed to promote ‘dignity and respect,’ sponsor says
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada Democrats have proposed a bill to enact a Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights into state law.
The largely symbolic Senate Bill 142 is meant to reinforce human rights extended to those experiencing homelessness, Democratic State Sen. Dallas Harris said during the bill’s first hearing Friday.
“This bill is a fairly simple bill,” Harris said. “It is designed to let the homeless people of Nevada know that here in this state, they are entitled to the same rights as every other resident of this state. No more and no less, and I really want to emphasize the no less.”
The bill does not override any existing state or local law or regulation nor makes a person’s housing status a protected class. It lists rights including fair and respectful treatment and access to emergency health treatment.
“It is clear to me that not everybody understands that these people are people and are entitled to the same rights that we are all entitled to,” Harris said. “I am of the opinion that here in the state of Nevada we should make it clear no matter if you have a home or not, your rights are the same as everyone else’s.”
“You want dignity and respect, which I don’t know how you can legally enforce dignity and respect into the law, I understand the concept, but do we have laws now that we are trying to change that deny them dignity and respect?” Republican State Sen. Ira Hansen said, noting he agreed with the statement but questioned whether it should be law.
“We cannot legislate dignity, we cannot legislate respect, but we sure as heck can try,” Harris said.
A provision in the original bill, which called for “a reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property” appeared to have been removed before the hearing. Lawmakers referenced an amended version in Friday’s hearing which had not been uploaded publicly.
The bill would also allow a person experiencing homelessness to bring a civil lawsuit against a person who violates their rights.
A homeless census in 2022 found more than 5,500 people living in the Las Vegas valley experiencing homelessness.
A 2020 ordinance in the city of Las Vegas makes it a crime “to camp or sleep in the public right-of-way, such as a sidewalk or street, downtown and in all residential areas if space is available at the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center or another nonprofit service provider,” a city document said.
Other “Bill of Rights” language in Nevada state law includes a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights and a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights.
The proposal would require passage in the Nevada Legislature and Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s approval to become law.