Last nights piece had the reporter and cameraman enter one of the tunnels and meet and spoke with 3 different inhabitants. The first was a 53 year old man who has lived in the tunnel for 3 years. He said that he promised himself that once his kids were in college he would pack a bag and head to Vegas and live off the city. The second was a former construction worker who's last job was working on the Fontiane Bleu project and has lived in the drain since being laid off. The third a young fellow, I guess early 20's who came to Vegas "on vacation" and lost all his money.
None of these three folks looked like your stereo-typical homeless. They all appeared fairly clean, with clean cloths. They all had made some sort of domestic space in different sections of the tunnel. One had a mattress and desk area with shelving and a desk lamp. I don't know if the lamp worked or not and have no idea if there is power down there (I would think not since these drains get flooded during monsoon season). The younger fellow kept a daily journal.
I find these types of stories fascinating. The people stories themselves (I actually often take time to talk to some of the homeless folks and you would be surprised at some of the stories), as well as the things they do to create a make-shift domestic setting.
I have to wonder though: how many of these poor souls drown in the tunnels during one of Las Vegas' rare but violent torrential downpours?
Casualties of the post-modern age, I suppose.
One of the local news stations here in Vegas did a piece on the people that live beneath Vegas in the storm drains last night.
I like "The Rant" on FOX5 when I need to feel bad about others lives.
even in the drains. No electric, no modern
conveniences, no thanks.
The experience completely changed my perception of who homeless people really are. The few we see begging for money on the roadside are truly the minority. And with the children counted, the average age of all homeless that we counted was something like 11 years old.
The experience changed me forever. I'll never sit in my comfy central Austin home and judge them ever again. The stories I heard were a mixture of determination to get out of this, to despair and just giving up. The mentally ill were also very well represented. They have nowhere to go. Our Governor and Legislature have seen to that by cutting funds year after year. Despite him bragging to the rest of the country how our economy is something to be coveted. We rank at the bottom nationally in education spending and have an uninsured population greater than any other state. If we don't lead the nation in unwed mothers now, we will soon.
It's just really sad to see people in this situation. For the most part the children gave the address of a shelter in order to be enrolled in school. I was shocked by the gravity of the situation, I really was.
I will volunteer for the next census as well. It is something everybody should do at least once in their life. I came away very grateful for the life I have.
I live in Austin Texas. Last year the City took a census of the homeless community. It was a voluntary gig so I volunteered for it. ( I work for the City) I found it fascinating and sad all at the same time. I had no idea the number of children who are homeless. The parents work and the kids go to school but they have no place to call home.
I was in Austin a couple years ago for several days (a college sports tourney of sorts). I was absolutely amazed at the number of homeless folks seemingly everywhere.
The parents work and the kids go to school but they have no place to call home.
If the parents work, why don't they get
a small apartment?
Housing is so scarce and expensive. An example, we listed our house and it went live on Saturday 11-08-14. We had three offers and a signed contract Sunday 11-09-14 for 10% more than asking price. (We were in Vegas) It's ridiculous. We have another house to go to so we cashed in on the centrally located house while the prices are high.
For years my line of work was running housing programs. A wide variety of housing programs, some of which might be used by middle income working class folks in fairly ordinary rental housing projects, some others for people with very specialized needs, and some were housing for homeless people, including some large shelter programs in a major urban area (not Las Vegas). Something one learns when you deal with folks over a significant enough time period so that you end up dealing with more than whatever surface narrative they choose to construct: People lie. They lie about themselves. Sometimes also to themselves.
A small random anecdote for illustration (which no doubt will make the dear departed Mr. Buzz foam at the mouth in anger in his absence): Fellow arrives at a shelter program on a referral from his probation officer; I'll call him "Leroy" here. I do this intake myself, since staff is tied up with another thing. Abbreviated version from my memory: "So, Leroy, what brings you here to be staying with us for a while?" "Well, ya know, the economy is bad and I can't get anyone to rent to me without much money 'cause they don't like homeless people." "Oh, say your P.O. mentioned you just spent a few weeks over in the jail; what was up with that?" "Eh, I had a bunch of traffic stuff." "Hmm, they kept you for a few weeks for traffic stuff?" "Yeah, you know, like speeding and they said I went through a light and stuff, and the cop didn't like me, and I don't have enough money to pay for fines and lawyers and stuff because the economy is bad and people don't like the homeless, ya know?" "Umm-hmm."
Well, at the time I was a mid-level County poverty-bureaucrat of sorts in the same County as his referring probation officer, so after getting Leroy settled in I found it rather easy to give his P.O. a ring for some background. And I was rather surprised to discover that Leroy was, in a sense, one of the more truthful people who'd come to that homeless shelter recently. Everything he said was completely true, just rather incomplete. He'd just neglected to mention that he'd committed those traffic infractions while leaving the scene of his attempted robbery of a local convenience store. That, and his prior string of arrests involving his longstanding use of crack.
Another somewhat broader anecdotal illustration. A police officer came to the shelter's office with a warrant from a judge seeking someone for something, who was believed by the officer and apparently the court to be there, as happens from time to time. Now, the correct procedure under our policy for such warrants would have been for the staff person to check our records to see just where in the facility that person is, if they are or were staying with us at all, and direct them to that specific room and only there to cooperate with the court order. But the staff on duty was very busy and feeling harried with three things at once, so she didn't do that. She handed him a copy of the handy log of names and room numbers instead. She shouldn't have done anything like that, but she did. The officer thanked her for her help and made thorough use of it. We soon had a lot more room in that shelter, because after running ALL the names through the local enforcement data system about a quarter of them were suddenly soon arrested and jailed for outstanding warrants on charges major enough for the jail to make room for them, and I eventually learned that ALL of the adults on the log had some degree of criminal history when he took that log and ran them through their system. All. Every last one. I'd been involved in this kind of work for quite a few years by then, and I was only mildly surprised.
Those are only anecdotes, and I am some anonymous guy on the internet. It would not be wise to take that as an ironclad basis for "knowing" what is really going on with someone, anymore that you should do so based on what a "Leroy" chooses for his narrative about himself. But I do have a rhetorical question to pose as a thought experiment. Assume somewhere in the world there is a couple in which he routinely beats the crap out of her, and she beats the living hell out of the kids, they sometimes pimp them out, and they've both been stoned out of their gourds every day of their adult lives, and every place they've ever rented soon resulted in evictions owing to the cops being called ten times a week and destroyed apartments from mountains of broken drywall from beating each other into it, and Child Protective Services in six states are looking to snatch the kids to get them in foster care if they find them. That is, if for a moment here you can buy that such individuals really do exist in the world, for the sake of this thought experiment (they really do). What do you suppose will be their chosen narrative to an interviewer, whether in a social services office, or a survey, or someone with a note pad and camera crew, in the place they just skeedadled to one step ahead of CPS from the state they just left? Maybe even to themselves? Will it include what I just typed? Or will it be some version of "the economy was bad and we came here for work but then there was no good job here and nobody will give a place to homeless people...?"
I totally agree with the remark that 'tis not often wise to assume knowing a lot of things about people. Not from what I just said here, and likewise, certainly not from what they choose to say. Because doing so inevitably tends to be more a reflection of ourselves and what we wish to see them as, for our own purposes, rather than whatever the reality may or may not actually be about THEM. To do that with even the small beginnings of any real confidence you'd have to figuratively "live with" them for a significant period, including their "night person" side which isn't often seen when anything like clipboards and microphones and office furniture are present.