by Lyle Brennan, March 1, 2022, By Whose Authority?
Mission War: Las Vegas Wants Nonprofit’s Land
CARE Complex is a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating homelessness in Downtown Las Vegas. The organization was established in 2005. In 2014, CARE purchased a foreclosed property in the city’s “Corridor of Hope” – a prime area to help those burdened with homelessness. Three years later, in 2017, the City of Las Vegas opened the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center next door to CARE. The City’s center provides similar services to the nonprofit, with the added red tape that accompanies every government-run agency.
Now, Las Vegas is looking to expand the Courtyard, and it wants CARE’s land to do it. Discussions surrounding the City’s use of the land included a possible parking lot or storage operations. It’s questionable whether either would be as effective in helping the homeless as CARE’s facility.
Michael Swecker, who established CARE, had initially hoped that, since their missions are so similar, the City and nonprofit could work hand and hand. However, shortly after the Courtyard opened, Las Vegas was already threatening CARE with condemnation. Now, the City has offered the nonprofit $1 million to sell and indicated that taking the property through eminent domain laws is on the table. According to CARE, if they are forced to relocate, the offer falls short, by over $1.5 million, of their real costs to continue operating in another location.
In addition, CARE Complex located in an area to help the most people, as efficiently as possible. With an annual budget around $170,000 and programs showing real results, CARE has more than proven its ability to effectively help those in need. In 2019, CARE helped an average of over 1,700 people each month with programs ranging from locker storage to bus passes and moving people from the streets to their own homes. In CARE’s bridge housing program, 94 percent of those that have stayed in contact have been able to maintain their housing. These are real, measurable results toward fulfilling a mission on the part of CARE Complex.
I have no doubt the City of Las Vegas wants to eliminate homelessness in the area, nor do I question the intentions of the Courtyard and its programs. However, it’s a simple fact that any government-run facility is going to be bogged down by red tape and bureaucracy. They are not as agile as a private nonprofit. As much as I’d love to see it, because ultimately our tax dollars pay for these programs, the City of Las Vegas could never stretch $170,000 each year as far as CARE Complex has. Taking this nonprofit’s land to expand their own programs, redundant already, smacks of government overreach.
CALL TO ACTION: After the city threatened eminent domain, criticism from CARE representatives and advocates came swiftly. A cooling off period of 60 days was implemented giving both sides the opportunity to work out a deal. I would suggest City leadership take a moment to reset their priorities and get out of the way of those that are doing the work. Las Vegas has absolutely no right to move in on a non-profit that is effectively helping those in the area. If Las Vegas needs more space, they should relocate their facility.