Homeless People Made To Sleep In Car Park As Makeshift Shelter Set Up Near Hotels
Officials in Las Vegas have faced backlash after turning a parking lot into a makeshift shelter for homeless people over the weekend.
Authorities set up the new ‘shelter’ in the parking lot of the Cashman Center, with city officials saying this was the best option after another shelter was forced to close as a result of the coronavirus crisis – despite the fact thousands of the city’s hotel rooms are currently empty.
The so-called solution came about after a 500-bed overnight shelter for the homeless – located nearby to the Cashman Center – was shut down when somebody tested positive for COVID-19.
A city official said the inside of the Cashman Center could not be used as shelter because it’s being reserved for overflow hospital space in a bid to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Regardless, many have questioned why the thousands of currently empty hotel rooms throughout Vegas couldn’t be used to shelter homeless people, particularly after pictures of the makeshift shelter emerged on social media.
The photos of several homeless people sleeping in white boxes on the ground, which officials said were drawn 6ft apart to observe social distancing guidelines, actually showed many within arm’s reach of each other.
The now-viral images sparked massive backlash, with many rightly asking why the thousands of hotel rooms in the Nevada city that are currently ‘going unused’ couldn’t be used as a shelter instead.
One person questioned why this was seen as a plausible solution in ‘a state in one of the richest countries in the world’, while others pointed out that the homeless were still being ‘packed into concrete grids’ in spite of the so-called social distancing guidelines.
Julián Castro, the mayor of San Antonio who served as the secretary of housing under Barack Obama, tweeted: ‘After criminalising 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!
According to the latest figures, there have been 164,610 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States and 3,170 reported deaths. In Nevada, there have been 1,113 confirmed cases and 17 reported deaths.
Regardless, there has yet to be a national response in America (or in many other countries) to protect homeless people from COVID-19. One example in Australia which has also faced criticism for being vastly inadequate is the ‘Hotels with Heart’ pilot trial.
The trial will see 20 of Perth’s most vulnerable homeless people moved into the five-star hotel Pan Pacific for a month, to protect them and others during the coronavirus pandemic.
If successful, the scheme could be expanded so that 120 rooms within the hotel will become available to other vulnerable people, including victims of domestic violence and those suffering from mental health problems.
The trial was developed after a task force was set up last week to address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Community Services Minister Simone McGurk saying the state government recognised there are a number of groups who are more vulnerable to the virus.
She said, as per Daily Mail Australia:
The Hotels with Heart pilot learns from similar initiatives happening interstate and around the world, including in the United Kingdom, America and Canada. It demonstrates what can be achieved when there is collaboration across the private, community service and government sectors.
With the help of community service organisations, this initiative will take the pressure off the health system in Western Australia and potentially help to flatten the curve as the State fights to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The Hotels with Heart pilot also aims to sustain our hotel sector for when the COVID‑19 threat is eliminated.
Ms McGurk went on to thank Pan Pacific Perth for ‘stepping forward’ during the health crisis, which according to the latest figures by Johns Hopkins University has so far caused the deaths of 37,878 people globally.
While efforts are clearly being made to protect a small minority of homeless people in Perth, thousands are still living on the streets across the country, unprotected.
The National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project labelled the scheme as inadequate, saying there were hundreds of homeless people on the streets of the CBD, East Perth and West Perth alone.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by coronavirus and the families of those who have lost their lives.
It’s okay to not panic. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our coronavirus campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization on coronavirus, click here.