Shine a Light on Homelessness
On a recent trip to Las Vegas I came across a homeless man sitting beside the curb close to Caesar’s Palace.
My initial reaction — “what an incredible marketing campaign” came from the businesswoman in me. The man and his message were captivating and solicited a wide range of emotions; from laughter at his unique sense of humor, to curiosity about this man’s story, to sadness that a gimmick is required to solicit help from strangers, to utter hopelessness of why donate if he’s just going to drink himself silly.
Within 15 seconds or so of this emotional rollercoaster ride, I handed him a $5 “contribution” and received his permission to take this photo, satisfying both of our vices from a simple yet cleverly written message.
Las Vegas has been on the forefront of the foreclosure crisis contributing to the growth of the homeless population from approximately 12,000 two years ago to nearly 14,000 today. With less than 1,000 beds in shelters, the homeless are forced to go to extremes in seeking shelter.
Journalist Matt O’Brien recently authored a book about the elaborate subterranean world of the homeless in Las Vegas – My Week at the Blue Angel. O’Brien’s states in his blog http://www.beneaththeneon.com “the stories in My Week at the Blue Angel aren’t about Steve Wynn, Cirque du Soleil, or how to play poker and they aren’t set in Caesars Palace, XS Nightclub, or a 2,000-seat showroom. They’re about prostitutes, ex-cons, and the homeless and they’re set under Caesars Palace and in trailer parks and weekly motels.”
Its about time America gets its priorities straight – focusing on solutions to assist the poor and homeless on our own soil rather than plowing trillions into fighting wars that yield questionable returns, bailing out Wall St, subsidizing big oil, and providing wasteful corporate tax breaks. In the past we have dominated the global peacemaker and financial aid provider roles, while our own social fabric has been significantly deteriorating. And with soaring US deficits and high unemployment, it is time to pull in our reins and focus on critical domestic issues.
Shine a Light is the community project founded by O’Brien that helps the hundreds of men and women living in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas.