These days, it seems that we are all worried and confused at the same time. Apart from being anxious about our own health and the health of our loved ones, we are also thinking about the possible consequences of the coronavirus on the economy and our future.
Will the world manage to be the same soon? When will things go back to normal? Will they? During this chaos and crisis, have you thought about the homeless?
In Las Vegas, Nevada, after one homeless man who had been staying at the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada tested positive to the coronavirus, and the place had to evacuate, hundreds of its residents were set up in a “temporary shelter”, on a parking lot!
The homeless were asked to sleep within the six-foot by six-foot squares drawn on the concrete, to be able to follow the proper physical distancing measures.
Ironically, (sadly might be more appropriate) the numerous hotels and casinos remain empty while these 500 homeless people sleep in an open air.
The shelter was set up with carpeting and mats first, but due to risks of transmission, the carpet was removed, and the 117 people presently there ended up sleeping on a hard concrete floor.
Before entering the parking area, every person was screened for coronavirus symptoms by a medical student from Touro University, wearing protective gear.
David Riggleman, the communications director for the City of Las Vegas, explained that they asked for sleeping mats, as they can be disinfected easily, but they couldn’t find any.
He said that the parking lot shelter was the best thing they could do, 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.”
County and city officials said they were proud for managing to cope with the situation, and Las Vegas’ chief community services officer, Lisa Morris Hibbler, said that their job is to serve the community, “and I think that we’re showing that we do that well.”
However, photos of the place and the homeless sleeping on the concrete enraged and frustrated people.
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!”
Yet, many of the homeless are happy to be welcomed there. One of them, Denise Lankford, said she felt safer and secure there.
But let’s just make a comparison- in Santa Clara County, California, officials have secured over 172 hotel rooms for the homeless, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot plans to rent thousands of rooms for them and for coronavirus patients, and New York City officials have prepared 500 rooms in four hotels for the homeless.
In Las Vegas, they slept on a parking lot, until the Catholic Charities reopened their doors.