Lieutenant Timothy Hatchett of Las Vegas’ Metropolitan Police contacted Mr. Patterson in early January and urged Sleepy Herd to talk to the City’s “powers-that-be” given that Las Vegas ranks 7th for having the highest homelessness population amongst big American cities. He described their homelessness problem around the strip and the downtown areas as so prevalent that it is impossible to ignore because people there are sleeping on sidewalks and walking around dealing with varying levels of mental illness. He stated that they have been trying to get a handle on this specific section of their homeless population, the ones who appear lost and bedraggled, through the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center currently in its initial phase of construction.
Sleepy Herd reached out to Ms. Gibson-Thomas on the heels of this conversation in light of Las Vegas making it widely known that they want to be the first large American city to properly address homelessness. Sleepy Herd wanted to make sure the city duly accounted for the other side of our homeless population, those who are better able to hide amongst us, because they live in their cars.
On Monday, March 9, 2020, Sleepy Herd, Inc., through its Executive Director, Kelsay Patterson, and a contingent of its Board of Directors including Jeffrey Harrison, and Michael Bragg sat down with Kathi Gibson-Thomas, Director of Community Services for the City of Las Vegas and her team to discuss the City’s approach to its homelessness population who are temporarily living in their cars.
The idea of rest area parking lots for people who live in their cars was not a new concept to them, but they had always considered such places as either full-scale replacements of, or substitutes for, emergency shelters. The difficulty was in helping them understand that two different classes of homeless people have different needs and adding a new solution for those who have not yet fallen to the level of sleeping on the streets, should not be to the dismissal or termination of any of the traditional solutions.
Veterans with PTSD, people with pets, and people who prefer not to congregate with strangers of varying mental dispositions and hygiene levels (single mothers with children) often reject shelters as homelessness support.
Las Vegas, like other cities, has a scarcity of available land for developing such parking lots, and suggested that Clark County, the county that encompasses and surrounds the City of Las Vegas, be brought into the discussion to effect a more comprehensive plan.Sleepy Herd has followed up with their meeting with the City of Las Vegas by contacting Clark County Commissioner, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Clark County Social Services Director, Michael Pawlak.
COVID-19 has exposed some of the shortcomings and pitfalls of a 1 size fits all solution of shelters because it conflicts with social distancing, as well as the need to keep one’s immediate area around themselves and their loved-ones clean.
We look forward to discussing such truths with the City of Las Vegas and Clark County. A high-quality parking lot sanctuary for people who live in their cars is a viable solution that would limit the spread of the virus and contagion. We can address the needs of this segment of our homeless population by offering the support they need where they are; where we find them, and in doing so, impede the spread of the virus by giving some an option they have been asking for expressly.