Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2014

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Homeless told to move on

State Department of Transportation officials have instructed dozens of homeless people to evacuate the right-of-way below the Spaghetti Bowl Interchange.

Bobby Shelton, DOT spokesman, said State officials visited several camp sites along the old Las Vegas Creek early Tuesday afternoon and told homeless people they must evacuate the area before Feb. 22

“I wouldn’t call it coming down on them,” Shelton said. “We are planning cleanup operations, in that area, and they need to move so we don’t damage any of their property.”

The visits to the homeless camps occurred the same day the SUN published a story about the lives of the homeless there.

Shelton said the eviction had been planned for some time, and it was a coincidence that the transportation department ordered the homeless to move only after hours after the SUN was distributed to area newsstands.

The spokesman said he was surprised when he took a recent drive on the U.S. 95 Expressway, and he looked down from the Spaghetti Bowl and saw numerous camps and shelters.

“As a private citizen, when I drove around the freeway and saw that, I was pretty overwhelmed with it,” Shelton said.

Some of the homeless who have been living in the right-of way say they are pretty overwhelmed by events of the last two days.

“We don’t have anywhere to go. We don’t have anyone who will rent to us. We just need a little time,” said John, who lives on the north side of the concrete-lined creek.

John, a laborer, said times are bad right now for him and others who offer their services to construction or landscape companies for $5 an hour.

“I’m only working a couple of days a week right now, John said. “In the summer, things will pick up and I’ll be able to rent a place.”

John added: “It’s pretty sad. I know it’s illegal for us to be here, but we’re not hurting anything. We’re just trying to get by. It’s not bad for the city. Look at us now. We’re here (at Rancho Market) buying groceries.”

James McGuinness, director of the Homeless Advocacy Project, said he was disgusted when he heard about the evictions.

“It’s typical,” McGuinness said. “As soon as anybody finds people who are somewhere and taking care of themselves, the typical answer by officials is to get rid of them. Let them go somewhere else.”

The problem, according to the homeless, is there is nowhere else they wish to go.

Teddy Cordova, director of Friendship Corner, a private nonprofit agency that provides services to the homeless such as storage and laundry facilities, said many homeless people would rather sleep outside than in area shelters.

“They don’t want to go inside, for reasons that concern the shelter itself,” Cordova said.

“People sleep on the floor next to each other, shoulder to shoulder,

If one person has a cold, then everyone gets sick. There’s also lice infestations.”

McGuinness said that the situation facing the area homeless will improve once the MASH center is constructed near the St. Vincent Shelter.

Officials formally broke ground for the Mobilized Assistance and Shelter for the Homeless in November, but construction has not begun.

McGuinness said $5 million more is needed to build the MASH center, and its still not clear whether the Federal government will help with the funding.

Some of the homeless already have vacated their camps along the old Las Vegas Creek.

On Wednesday, a cardboard sign was hung in front of one of the camps. It read:

“To the sorry DOT, I hope someday that someone comes and tells you that that you have to get out of your home. Because we never bothered anyone and I don’t see why we had to move. And the question to you is where do we move to? But you don’t care."

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