Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with Natalie Smith, one of the directors of NevadaCure, an organization that advocates for prisoners in Nevada.
Because their organization doesn't provide housing for those being released, she wanted suggestions about how to put together a housing program. She said a woman offered them several hundred acres that could be used for housing those released on parole. In addition, the benefactor offered to finance housing on the property.
However, when she told me the parcel is located some 50 miles in the desert outside of Las Vegas, I said it probably wouldn't work. After all, our experience has been that those being released need to work, have transportation and other services. And this place is so far in the country that it would be impractical for reintegrating parolees into society.
Additionally, I explained to her that Nevada law is so prohibitive for those who help addicts and alcoholics that unless one has deep pockets it's nearly impossible to open a facility. Under state regulations one must operate a simple halfway house like it's a medical facility. Each client needs a case file. A nurse has to be available. There's a $100 fee per bed each six months, meaning that a 50 bed facility would pay a $10,000 a year bed tax. And these aren't all the regulations, just some of them. That’s why Nevada has few services for those who need them.
We estimated a few years ago that it would require nearly half a million to purchase and prepare to operate a licensed halfway house in Las Vegas. This is a near impossibility for a business that barely breaks even under the best of circumstances.
The law is so restrictive in Nevada that we ceased our halfway house operation in Las Vegas a few years back. All we offer there is sober housing. We can't tell residents to go to meetings. We can't have 12-step meetings on the property. We were told that we can't give addicts or alcoholics any help because that would make us a halfway house.
I complimented Natalie on the great work her organization does. But her energy might be better spent advocating for prisoners because that endeavor has experienced some success and isn't as vulnerable to the whims of the state.