- A homeless shelter in Las Vegas closed after a man living there tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
- The shelter moved hundreds of its occupants to a temporary makeshift shelter in the parking lot of the Cashman Centre, which is usually used for large conventions or sports games.
- Photos of homeless people sleeping six feet apart, in white boxes painted on the ground, drew widespread criticism, including from former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro.
- A local coordinator said the centre was being used as a makeshift coronavirus hospital, and the shelter will reopen within the week, according to CNN.
- Many people pointed out that the homeless people were sleeping in the parking lot while Las Vegas hotels were empty.
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Las Vegas authorities moved 500 homeless people into a parking lot over the weekend after a shelter was forced to close over a positive coronavirus case.
The facility operated by the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, which was housing hundreds of people, had to shut down after one resident tested positive for coronavirus last week.
As a result, county officials set up a temporary makeshift shelter in the parking lot of the Cashman Centre, which normally houses a convention space and a sports field.
Around a dozen medical students from the nearby Touro University helped officials set up the centre and screened incoming guests by taking their temperatures, CNN reported.
Photos show homeless people sleeping in white-marked boxes on the ground, which were drawn six feet apart in line with federal social distancing guidelines.
Volunteers had previously planned to lay out a large carpet to create sleeping mats, but this was later removed when officials found it too difficult to disinfect, CNN reported.
“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 [another homeless shelter] and that can be disinfected easily. But there were none to be had.”
Pictures of the new sleeping arrangements drew criticism on social media.
“Las Vegas is putting homeless people in parking lots while the city’s hotels are completely empty,” one person, named Stone, tweeted. “For some reason, this photo sums up for me everything that is wrong with this country & its response to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Nevada, a state in one of the richest countries in the world, has painted social-distancing boxes on a concrete parking lot for the homeless to sleep in. pic.twitter.com/svNJ0N9r3f
— Amanda Mancino-Williams (@Manda_like_wine) March 30, 2020
Julián Castro, former Democratic presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, tweeted: “After criminalizing homelessness this year, Las Vegas is now packing people into concrete grids out of sight.”
After criminalizing homelessness this year, Las Vegas is now packing people into concrete grids out of sight.
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! pic.twitter.com/wxZ4ZD6Jtc
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) March 30, 2020
Riggleman told CNN that the inside of the Cashman Centre itself could not be used as a shelter because it was being reserved for additional hospital space.
Jace Radke, a spokesman for the city of Las Vegas, said that the district will be screening anybody who may have come into contact with the homeless man who tested positive, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal.
As of March 31, Nevada has more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to The Guardian.
Riggleman expects the homeless shelter to reopen within the week, at which point the temporary parking lot shelter will close.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has been advising major cities like San Francisco to leave people living on the streets during the coronavirus outbreak if shelters cannot meet social distancing guidance.