Before you jump down my throat and call me heartless read on.
As of January 2019 7,196 people were experiencing homelessness in Las Vegas on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. [USICH.gov, 2019] There're are approximately 2,000 beds available at the beginning of each day in Las Vegas, while this clearly isn't enough to cover the estimated 7000+ homeless. On any given night there are over 300 unclaimed beds available. Available to the public is the LasVegasNevada.gov website which has a real time tracker on how many beds are available and where. As I write this article, it's a Friday night and there are 248 beds at the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, 10 at The Salvation Army (LGBTQ), 26 at The Salvation Army (men), and 9 at The Salvation Army (women). While places like National Alliance to End Homelessness fight for more funding opposers argue that the federal funding already received by shelters is going to waste.
Now let's talk about these shelters in more detail.
The Courtyard Homeless Resource Center
Opened in 2017 unlike other shelters, this resource center accepts all persons experiencing homelessness. Whether they're down on their luck, addicted to drugs or alcohol, have pets, or are a homeless couple The Courtyard on Foremaster Lane in Downtown Las Vegas accepts everyone. While they are able to enter high on drugs or drunk on alcohol, they cannot use on property, sell on property, buy on property, and must respect their neighbors. Each person who resides at the Courtyard is assigned a numbered spot and coordinating numbered green plastic trash bin. This bin is not full of trash however, it's used as a locked storage closer to hold all of the resident's prized belongings until their stay comes to an end. Resident's of the resource center have access to on spot medical care, housing, employment assistance (frequent job fairs held on site), mental health providers, and legal assistance. In addition to the assistance offered by this center, 8 armed guards provide 24/7 protection to its guests (as they are called when they enter). In addition to the armed guards throughout the center and the security checkpoint, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers will stop and question loiterers which hang on the outskirts of the center. This is done to keep residents from being harassed or taken advantage of as they come and go. Residents at the center are free to come and go as they please, LVMPD ensure their safety when doing so.
Courtyard Phase 2
As phase 2 began in January of 2020 the plans included adding pet kennels and pet care, more kitchens, showers, and more classrooms. At the finish of these phases it resembles that of a college campus for Downtown Las Vegas' homeless community. There are plans to add transportation and housing as well.
So with all of the wonderful things that The Courtyard Homeless Resource Center offers you have to ask yourself, why are there currently 248 empty beds? The answer is pretty simple, they have to want the help. Surprising as it may be, not everyone does. City Marshalls go as far as visiting tented homeless camps offering them spots, help, food, and other resources if they'd like to stay at the Courtyard, many are met with a muffled "no".
Story time, a few years ago I was in downtown Los Angeles sitting at a Chick Fil A with my family. Lining the sidewalk just across from the entrance were endless homeless camps. My sister and I decided to go back into the Chick Fil A and purchase several meals to help as many people as we could. To our surprise, we struggled to offload the meals. We were met with many rejections. I sat there in disbelief. Years later as a police wife in Las Vegas I had heard the many stories of my husband trying to give resources to homeless persons he would encounter on duty but being rejected some going as far as telling him that they know the resources are available but they don't want it. It was then I realized that for some (not all) it's a choice. Whether it be a result of drug addiction or an unknown, when they choose not to accept resources they are choosing to remain homeless and this was something I had to learn to be ok with. This wasn't easy for my helper heart to accept but I had no choice.
The reality is that those that you see lining the streets panhandling (begging for change) are using that money for drugs and alcohol. As much as we'd like to believe that they are going to feed their starving families or pay for a bus fair to a job interview, it's simply not the case. I know the thoughts of many are "well I don't give them money to buy drugs, I do give them food though. They can't buy drugs with a meal from McDonalds". While you're mostly right, you have to think about this, you providing them with that meal means that they don't have to provide that meal for themselves leaving the change they got from panhandling to go towards the addiction. I know these words make it seem as though I believe all homeless have an addiction or don't want help. However, I'm speaking only about the homeless persons begging on Fremont and the Las Vegas Strip. Not the ones in shelters seeking help. The ones who want the help are provided with all the resources they need to get back on their feet from start to finish including clothing, food, education, employment, housing, etc and as the numbers show, there are many spots available for these resources each night and they are not being used.
So the point of this article wrapped up is this, the city of Las Vegas and Mayor Goodman are working tirelessly to provide real positive resources and change for the homeless community of Las Vegas. When you give food and money outside of what they are providing you're not helping the problem you're enabling it. If you'd truly like to help, get in contact with the centers which are experts on how to effectively help and see what assistance or contribution you can make to them. They will be able to point you in the right direction and I promise they will appreciate the assistance and it will go a lot further.