Out of sight, out of mind. One of the things the Pandemic of 2020 caused was we forgot about the homelessness issue in Vegas, but it is still a huge problem. In 2019 the homeless crisis in Las Vegas hit its apex with over 6000 people living on the streets. I was running for office at the time, so the issue of how to solve the crisis was front and center for the candidates.
It has not been a couple of years and we thought it was a good idea to revisit the issue, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Have the numbers gone up, down, or stayed the same. What kinds of solutions have lawmakers and civic leaders come up with to deal with the growing number of people who find themselves without a place to sleep at night?
Las Vegas has long been the home for the down and out. A report from a few decades ago highlighted the number of homeless encampments near Caesars Palace. The title of the article was “Beneath the Neon” which chronicled the lives of hundreds of people who lived in the tunnels beneath the Strip just feet away from the opulence of the Vegas Strip.
Many of these people live a life of loneliness, fear and danger as they survive each day on whatever they can find, steal or con. So what of these citizens? How many of them were able to survive the Pandemic of 2020 and have our civic leader done anything to bring the number of homeless people down?
According to data in 2018, Nevada ranks 4th in the nation for the rate of unsheltered homeless persons, with approximately 6,490 individuals and families without homes or a steady shelter at night. We have approximately 111 homeless families, including 2,052 children and youth. (Nevada Homeless Alliance)
As of January 2019, Nevada had an estimated 7,169 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In total, 53.1% of the homeless Nevada population is living unsheltered. Porch found that the total homeless population in Nevada is 7,169, including 6,614 individuals and 555 in families with children. Roughly 10% are considered chronically homeless.
These facts show that the number of homeless in the State of Nevada is on the increase. According to the Federal Government, the number of homeless were undercounted in the Census and so we are probably looking at larger numbers than have been reported.
All you have to do is take a Sunday drive up Main Street near Palm Mortuary or near Ward 5 on Bonanza to get a scope of the number of people living on the streets. Don’t think that these are isolated pockets. There are literally hundreds of homeless people lining the walking paths on the way out to Vegas Wash. The numbers have become so large cyclist and pedestrians are in fear of being harmed.
Lawmakers have a lot of work to do in order to bring these numbers down. It will take more than rhetoric to deal with this human tragedy. It will take a strategy, human capital and financial resources delivered and executed on.