Photo: Clark County on Twitter

For some reason, people seem to think there's something outrageous about images of homeless people sleeping on bare concrete in a Las Vegas convention center parking lot, even though city and county officials insisted they were doing the very best they could. The temporary outdoor "shelter" in the parking lot of the Cashman Center was opened Saturday following the closure of a 500-bed shelter run by Catholic Charities when one of the people staying there tested positive for coronavirus. Photos of the parking lot, painted with a grid of sleeping spaces to maintain social distancing, prompted reactions like this, from former presidential candidate and Obama HUD Secretary Julián Castro, who knows a thing or two about housing:

Castro noted,

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!

That, however, would be socialism, and really those people just won't do anything to help themselves, according to several experts on homelessness in the Twitter replies.


If it helps any, painting grid lines on concrete wasn't the first preference of officials from the city of Las Vegas and Clark County who set up the temporary parking lot shelter. Initially, they covered the sleeping area with about 24,000 square feet of blue carpet, laid by volunteers, and arranged to have medical students from Touro University Nevada take folks' temperatures as they checked in to the temporary outdoor facility. About 66 people camped in the carpeted parking lot Saturday night — a better arrangement than the situation immediately following the closure of the Catholic Charities shelter last Wednesday; the overnight shelter shut down with no arrangements for residents to go elsewhere.


Despite that cheery description of "mats" in the tweet, that's pretty obviously the carpet shown in other tweets. CNN reports there weren't any sleeping mats to be had, and the organizers quickly realized the carpet wasn't such a great idea either:

"We found that it was very difficult to disinfect and clean," David Riggleman, communications director for the City of Las Vegas, told CNN. "We had asked for sleeping mats, which we use at the Courtyard — and those can be disinfected easily. But there were none to be had."

By Sunday, there were 117 people, and the carpets were removed because of worries they could spread the virus. With no mats available, the grid lines were used to mark out sleeping spots, with the resulting outrage about the weird contrast of people consigned to sleep on asphalt while hotel rooms stood empty.

CNN asked why the actual convention center wasn't being used to house people, but Riggleman said it's being reserved for overflow hospital space.

He also said Catholic Charities plans to open its shelter by mid-week, at which point the temporary shelter will close.

Despite the recent criticism, Riggleman said he was proud of the fact that "so many people stepped in to help."

Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly expressed similar gratitude toward community members who volunteered.

"We needed a solution to this problem quickly," Weekly said in a news release. "And I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work so that our homeless population has a place to sleep tonight."

Riggleman also told NBC News that the county had been working on a plan to temporarily house people in vacant hotels, but that the Catholic Charities shelter closed before it could be put into place.

Say, you know WHO ELSE has a hotel in Vegas that's vacant right now? That's right! It's Hitler!

You know, if we had some sort of national government instead of every state and local government being on its own, this is the sort of thing a comprehensive pandemic response plan might take into consideration.

Fortunately, the American edition of the Sun tabloid put matters into perspective by calling the temporary "shelter" a concentration of filthy disease-ridden vagrants:

We bet the situation in Las Vegas will probably be an outlier and you won't see it repeated elsewhere, because America is a better place than that.

[CNN / KVVU / NBC News]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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