Homeless people sleeping in a converted parking lot in Las Vegas have sparked criticism, even as the city officials describe an “emergency situation” and say the solution was the best option after another shelter was forced to close amid the coronavirus crisis.
Over the weekend, authorities in Las Vegas needed to find additional sleeping space for the city’s sizable homeless population when a 500-bed overnight shelter closed after a client tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Officials turned a parking lot into a makeshift shelter, saying spaces for sleeping were drawn 6ft apart in observance of federal social distancing guidelines.
Many white boxes were covered up with blue mats that could be more easily cleaned. But photos of the temporary shelter showing people sleeping close to each other on the ground, some within arm’s reach, sparked a backlash on social media.
Jace Radke, the spokesperson for the city of Las Vegas, said the city and county had worked to open the temporary shelter after Catholic Charities closed and the city’s other shelter, Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, was nearly filled to capacity.
Officials set up the new shelter in the parking lot of the Cashman Center, which most recently has hosted soccer games. A city official said the inside of the Cashman Center could not be used as a because it was reserved for overflow hospital space.
Homelessness is a continuing crisis in southern Nevada, with at least 6,500 people camped on streets or in storm drains at any given time.
On Saturday, roughly a dozen medical and physician assistant students from Touro University were on hand to help officials set up the shelter.