GOP governor hopefuls pledge to get tough on homeless in first debate

A woman sits where her tent used to be in a local homeless camp in between the Truckee River and the railroad tracks east of downtown Reno on May 19, 2021.


A woman sits where her tent used to be in a local homeless camp in between the Truckee River and the railroad tracks east of downtown Reno on May 19, 2021.

Nevada’s ever-worsening homelessness crisis has Republican governor hopefuls clamoring to crack down on the homeless themselves. 

Two candidates vying to unseat Gov. Steve Sisolak doubled down on police sweeps and endorsed a controversial homeless camping ban during a Thursday night debate at the Atlantis Resort. 

A third, long-shot hopeful, Barak Zilberberg, proposed a special patrol force to collect taxes from panhandlers. 

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That idea proved only slightly outside the mainstream, at least among the eight candidates at the primary campaign’s first live clash in Reno.

Joey Gilbert, a retired professional boxer and first-time candidate from Reno, said homeless residents were not suffering from a lack of programs, assistance or education, but from “a lack of wanting to help themselves.”

“At the end of the day, you have to care enough about the homeless and about your community to enforce the law,” Gilbert added. “When faced with being put in jail or cleaning it up, (homeless people) are going to choose the latter. It’s that simple.”

Michele Fiore works in committee during the final day of the 77th Legislative session at the Legislative Building in Carson City in 2013.

Fellow firebrand Michele Fiore — a Las Vegas city councilwoman reportedly under active investigation by the FBI — also seemed focused on cleaning up, as opposed to treating, chronic homelessness.

“It’s not all about mental illness,” Fiore said. “I myself have put my hiking boots on and spoken to several (veterans) who choose to be off-the-grid.”

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