Among the Enablers

A by-the-numbers look at how one group is helping the homeless—in spite of the mayor

Damon Hodge

According to Mayor Oscar Goodman's definition, Linda Lera-Randle El is a homeless "enabler," someone whose compassion—for years, her nonprofit Straight from the Streets has provided food, water and hygiene products, as well as housing and job-referral services to hundreds of the thousands of homeless in the Valley—merely perpetuates the cycle of vagrancy, purportedly sapping any leftover up-from-the-bootstraps gumption from chronic street-dwellers.

Made during a recent meeting of the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition's committee on homelessness and reported by the Review-Journal on Saturday, the comments are classic Goodman—the type of spew-first-worry-about-recriminations-later vitriol he's become known for, especially on this issue.

While it's OK for him to broad-brush homelessness—because he's met one man who shows no interest in getting off the streets, all homeless must be similarly incorrigible—Goodman is the first one to berate outsiders for pigeonholing Las Vegas. Just as there's more to Vegas than what's shown on the Travel Channel, the issues of homelessness can't be encapsulated by one man's defeatist attitude.

But Randle El isn't the type to let Goodman's sniping deter her. Her group recently completed a seven-month (December to June) homeless intervention project on Wilson Street between D and F streets. Here's what she found:


• Fifty-three: Number of clients helped during the seven-month project.

• Four to 84: Clients' age range.

• Thirty: Those cited as working to get off the streets.

• Fourteen: Amount who've used plane or bus tickets to leave Las Vegas

• One: Number of deaths during the intervention (although the county recorded 29 homeless deaths during the same time).


• Seven clients were arrested or cited during the intervention, including a single mother who had an outstanding warrant from 1997.

• One client served six months in jail.

• One client was clearing up charges from another state.


• Five: Number of clients who were dealing with immigration issues.

• Four: Number awaiting legal assistance with their immigration status.


• Ten clients were cited as having serious medical problems involving one or more of the following: visual, hearing or major organ dysfunction.

• Most of the 53 clients hadn't had a health assessment or appropriate medical or physical diagnosis other than emergency survival services.

• Many depended on faith-based outreach services for food and shelter.

• Of the 53 people serviced, five are veterans.


• Ninety percent of the clients were deemed chronically homeless.

• Seventeen clients needed basic documentation such as birth certificates, immigration documents, identification cards and veteran's ID cards.

• Nine have Social Security insurance or Social Security disability claims pending or in reconsideration. Two were assisted in having their SSI or SSD benefits reinstated after they had been suspended, and are now using the services of the Public Guardian's Office to manage their funds.

• Six of the 53 clients received some type of monetary benefits. All of recipients were provided housing for two to three weeks until their benefits arrived; one has returned to the streets.


• Four families (with a total of seven children) have been assisted.

• Of the four families, two received assistance for full day-care, transportation and housing.

• One family needed intervention from Child Protective Services; the baby was placed in foster care.

• A child in another family was referred to Child Protective Services but the family moved before intervention took place.

• One of the families appears on the way to stability; the adults are now employed.


• Alcoholism and drug abuse were prevalent and seemed to contribute to mental-health issues as well as more severe health problems.

• Twenty were identified as having mental-health issues.

• Eighteen were cited as needing mental-health services.

• Thirteen are currently involved in the mental-health system.

• Three deny having any mental-health issues.

• Two acknowledge having mental problems but don't think they need treatment.

• • •

Even with news of city leaders agreeing on a regional homelessness plan and the state ponying up $4.2 million to tackle the issue—the first statewide intervention effort—Randle El knows yeoman's work remains. Many of the dozen or so clients she's helped obtain housing have had a hard time adjusting to their new accommodations.

"Some had not heard a phone ring or had to answer a phone for many years," she says. "Finding locations to house these clients has been a challenge. Very few of the clients have been able to find housing for the regular (assistance) funding amount of $369. The majority of the clients that have received assistance will continue to need some kind of additional ongoing assessments, case management and monitoring. Many will not rejoin the workforce, for a long time if ever ... Most of the success is fragile success."

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