Las Vegas, known around the world for its infamous ‘strip,’ is the leisure and pleasure mecca of the United States. But behind the glitz and the glamor, Las Vegas is home to the eighth largest homeless population across the nation. Following in the footsteps of many other American cities, Las Vegas is devising a plan to address its problem with homelessness that, contrary to popular practice, will make homeless camps permanent with a “Corridor For Hope.”
Over the past few years, many of Las Vegas’ homeless have set up camp on Foremaster Lane, north of Downtown Las Vegas, near branches of the Salvation Army Catholic Charities. Rather than removing the encampment, city officials are looking to make the homeless encampment on Foremaster Lane slightly more permanent by providing much-needed health facilities and services to homeless people.
In what is an attempt to organize the city’s homeless, officials have revealed they want to open the “Corridor of Hope,” an open-air courtyard type of space where the homeless can legally camp. Bathroom facilities, structures for shade, storage and sleeping mats would be made readily available in the space. Despite the fact that numerous services are already made available to Las Vegas’ homeless community, city leadership believes that mental health and health services are heavily lacking. The Las Vegas City Council has already allocated $5.9 million for the construction of the Corridor For Hope and has identified the land on which the site will be built.
The idea for a permanent homeless encampment in Las Vegas is based on a similar concept that city leaders saw in San Antonio. In the Texan city, a retired oil executive helped set up a “Haven for Hope” so San Antonio’s homeless can find a safe place to sleep. The facility has been up and running since 2010 and offers a wide range of services including medical, dental, and mental health services.
Las Vegas’ Corridor For Hope, however, does not exclude the community’s residents in the decision-making process, which is necessary for the success of a project of this kind. When Philadelphia leadership announced their plans to set up safe injection sites for residents addicted to opioids, they were met with massive backlash from the community, in part due to the city’s undemocratic decision-making process.
City officials in Las Vegas, on the other hand, are keen to ensure that the planned Corridor For Hope will not disrupt any social or economic activity in the area. According to city manager of community resources, Kathi Thomas-Gibson, neighbors in the area are being included in the planning process. “We’re talking about the homeless that are there in the urban core and being strategic in how we leverage existing resources and bring additional resources to really impact what happens there,” she said to Next City. “And all of those businesses and all of those social service agencies that are already there are part of this conversation.”
The project’s focus on providing mental health and health services to the homeless stems from the fact that many individuals who experience homelessness claim that the absence of these kinds of services often perpetuates their homelessness. President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, Deacon Tom Roberts, thinks that short-term solutions to homelessness usually snowballs when cities do not maintain them. Cities need “to “follow through on the other aspects of the plan,” he says. “To me it’s pretty simple. You solve for the missing link. The missing link is mental health services.”
Las Vegas plans to construct a permanent mental health facility during the second-phase of the Corridor For Peace this coming summer.