In Las Vegas, Homeless People Sleep 6 Feet Apart in Parking Lot as Thousands of Hotel Rooms Sit Empty

The coronavirus made a real havoc in the whole world taking so many lives. However, aside the constant fear of contracting it and the possibility of losing your own life, people also worry very much about the economy as many were left jobless due to the crisis.

No one feels protected and safe as it can happen to anyone endangering our lives and the lives of our close ones.

Everyone is concerned about what the future would look like, would everything return to normal, would we be able to find jobs or keep the ones we have. But, has anyone really thought of the people who are living on the streets. The homeless were left alone in the fight against the coronavirus as if their current situation is not bad enough.

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a homeless man staying at the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada had been tested positive to the coronavirus, and as a result of that the shelter had to be closed and the residents evacuated. Therefore, hundreds of homeless people were dislodged and put in a “temporary shelter”, a parking lot.

As a prevention of spreading the virus they were asked to sleep within the six-foot by six-foot squares which were drawn on the concrete floor. There are almost 500 homeless people sleeping on concrete in an open air. In the beginning the parking lot was covered with carpeting and mats, but due to risks of transmission, the carpet was removed, and at the moment 117 people sleep on a hard concrete floor.

In times when solidarity is promoted this seems very cruel knowing the fact that many hotels and casinos are empty.

David Riggleman, the communications director for the City of Las Vegas, said this was the best solution they could come up. Originally they asked for sleeping mats that could be easily disinfected but there were none available.

The parking lot shelter seemed the obvious solution as the Cashman Center is being used as an overflow hospital:

“It was a logistical heavy lift. That was a lot to pull together in a very short amount of time.

I think our entire country has seen the fact that we can’t manage this situation that we are in. It’s not just the homeless. This has overwhelmed our resources everywhere and I think everybody is doing the best they can.”

A medical student from Touro University, wearing protective gear, screens every person that enters the shelter for any possible symptoms of coronavirus.

The officials of Las Vegas believed that they have properly addressed the situation with the homeless, and Las Vegas’ chief community services officer, Lisa Morris Hibbler, stated that they have fulfilled their task to serve the community, saying: “I think that we’re showing that we do that well.”

But, the photos of the so called shelter with homeless people sleeping on the concrete caused negative reactions in many people. There have been many reactions on social media, and some of them were from renowned officials in other counties.

Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, Texas and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, as well as a former candidate for president, wrote on Twitter:

“After criminalizing homelessness this year, Las Vegas is now packing people into concrete grids out of sight. There are 150K hotel rooms in Vegas going unused right now. How about public-private cooperation (resources) to temporarily house them there? And fund permanent housing!”

Even though it made such a stir the accommodation of the homeless people in Vegas, it seems that the homeless there are satisfied with this arrangement, Denise Lankford, said she felt safer and secure there. We can understand this attitude which shows how desperate these people are.

Just as a comparison, the Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot intends to rent thousands of rooms for homeless people and for coronavirus patients, the officials in Santa Clara County, California, have secured over 172 hotel rooms for the homeless, and the officials in New York City, the most affected city with the coronavirus, prepared 500 rooms in four hotels for the homeless, but in Las Vegas, they sleep on a parking lot waiting for the Catholic Charities to reopen again.