Homeless Shelter Bursting With People Needing Help
LAS VEGAS -- Nevada's housing crisis and high unemployment rate are pushing more people into homelessness in Las Vegas. The city now has an estimated homeless population of 14,000 which is up from 12,000 before the recession.
So, where do thousands of homeless men, women, and children sleep each night in a city with fewer than 1,000 shelter beds? The answer -- in some cases -- is what nightmares are made of.
Local shelters, stretched beyond capacity, are still working tirelessly to make room for the record numbers of homeless families who keep coming through their doors.
"I can't imagine being out there in that heat and sleeping on the ground," said one homeless mother.
Newborn babies just hours old, the frail elderly, and more young families than ever before need help.
"In total, we're sleeping 200 in this one room," said Marlene Richter, shelter director.
The Shade Tree shelter is bursting at the seams with nearly 350 women and children under their roof each night.
"That includes our cots, our cribs, our bassinets. We have more than 50 toddlers in the building right now and five newborn babies," said Richter.
The homeless crisis in Las Vegas has even made national news.
Richter says its total number of bed nights skyrocketed to more than 106,000 last year, up from approximately 96,000 in 2008 and 76,000 in 2007.
"Right now, about 70-percent of the women and children who enter our front door have never been in a shelter before," said Richter.
"I never thought in my lifetime I'd be here but you just do what you have to do," said Yolanda who, along with her daughter, arrived at the Shade Tree in early June when outside temperatures soared above 110 degrees for three straight days. That heat wave prompted more homeless families to seek shelter than the Shade Tree had ever seen.
"At that point, we were taking in six new families a day and turning away 10 families a day and that's the first time that has ever happened," said Richter.
Since then, shelter staff and volunteers have worked around the clock to place families they can't take in at other local shelters.
"I used to be one of those people who didn't like to ask for help, but then I realized they know so much more than I do and they could probably help me and they really have," said Yolanda.
August 10, 2010