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TALK OF THE TOWN: What readers are saying about forced homeless evictions on ‘The Hill’

One of the most-read stories on pvtimes.com this month was an article written by John Clausen about the forced evictions of residents at a Pahrump homeless camp (Evictions on ‘The Hill’ the latest obstacle for Pahrump’s homeless population - July 13, 2023).

Clausen highlighted the struggles of two local homeless individuals who were being uprooted from the privately owned lands where they had been squatting.

Sheriff Joe McGill told the Pahrump Valley Times the evictions weren’t malicious — he says he was just enforcing modern property laws at the request of the landlord, who wanted the illegal tenants and their belongings removed from their land.

Our readers saw both sides of this situation and shared with us varying takes on Pahrump’s affordable housing crisis, as well as its rising homeless population.

“Boo hoo! They’re upset because our new sheriff is upholding the law,” reader Johnny Tangent told us on Facebook after reading the article.

Tangent says he doesn’t feel sympathy for the hardships expressed by homeless residents because they’re breaking the law by parking inoperable RVs, or erecting tents on land that isn’t theirs.

“This article is tugging at people’s heartstrings,” Tangent said. “These people are breaking the law: Trespassing, littering, illegal dumping of human waste…”

Others felt the evictions on The Hill were justified at any cost.

“They need to go,” reader Emily Smith told us on Facebook. “Anywhere but here,” she added.

But reader Cherish Pryor feels officials and others in the community must work to provide more resources to provide shelters and help our homeless residents.

“This is why they need to let me and others who are trying to rehabilitate the ones who need help to open a home here and help them,” reader Cherish Pryor told us on Facebook. “How come they allow so many drug-recovery houses but not a single transitional for homeless?”

Reader Donna Applegate says too few care enough about the situation because of pre-conceived misconceptions. She acknowledges that resources are scarce.

“This valley has the coldest hearts when it comes to the homeless,” Applegate told us. “Not all are druggies up there, and that is who trashes the place. I agree what is going on up The Hill is not right. But I sure in the hell don’t like the fact we have nothing to offer them to get them off The Hill.”

The PVT reported earlier this month that nearly $1.2 million in federal pandemic relief funds was awarded to Nye County to help with housing and utility expenses here. More than half has already been distributed by the Nevada Outreach Training Organization.

“I would have never guessed that we’d spend $100,000 per month on average since we were awarded the grant,” Director Kathie McKenna told the PVT. “But if you were to go over to the office for an hour and watch the amount of people we have coming through the door, it’s almost daunting.”

In the last quarter, the organization shelled out $352,000 in funds to help with housing costs and utilities, McKenna said.

“And that really shows the need in our community,” she said.

The nonprofit aims to prevent homelessness in our community by getting ahead of the issues that often exacerbate the problems. In short, it tries to help renters and homeowners with immediate assistance before they end up getting in too deep and end up on the streets.

“We help them get jobs, we help them get Social Security or disability, we help them get their birth certificates and Social Security cards, we help get them on welfare and SNAP, we do whatever it takes to help get our clients stable and on solid footing,” McKenna said.

The organization’s “teach-a-man-to-fish” mentality works better than just putting “a Band-Aid on a broken arm,” she says.

This holistic approach is a good model to deal with the problems, but must be deployed on a much broader scale to tackle the growing problems in Nye County.

McKenna emphasized the importance of seeing the whole picture and addressing the root causes that may ultimately lead to the lack of shelter for people.

“For example, someone might come in and need a new refrigerator. So we sit down and as we’re talking to them, we find out that their rent is three months behind and their electricity is about to be shut off — but for them, the need that is most urgent right now is that refrigerator,” she said. “Now, if we were to just help them with the fridge and have them walk away, have I helped that person at all?”

What do you think? Got ideas to help with the problem? You can join the conversation with our nearly 15,000 Facebook followers online or send an email to Editor Brent Schanding at bschanding@pvtimes.com .

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