A Hard Look at the State of Homelessness in Southern Nevada

Formerly homeless, Merideth Spriggs is the founder and chief kindness officer of Caridad Charity, a homeless services provider based in Downtown Las Vegas. She recently helped the Nevada Homeless Alliance complete its annual one-page fact sheet on various homeless subpopulations. Here, she references these findings and shines a light on the harsh realities of this way of life.  

“We don’t want to be separated. I don’t know what else to do. We have twins and have been trying to make sure they get to school each day.” The woman sobbed over the phone.

A young couple with twin school-aged boys had become homeless. They qualified for emergency rental assistance through Clark County Social Service, but because of previous evictions they were unable to find anyone willing to rent to them. Family shelters were full, and having nowhere else to go, the family had resorted to living out of their car.

On any given night, more than 30,000 Southern Nevada residents, including families with children, couples and individuals of all ages, will experience homelessness, according to the 2016 Southern Nevada Homeless Census and Survey. Families made up 36 percent of all destitute people counted nationally during the 2015 Homeless Point-in-Time Census. (Point-in-Time determines the total number of sheltered and unsheltered persons on a single night in January, required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to receive funding. In Southern Nevada, homeless agencies and community volunteers complete the task.) In January 2016, the local count found 118 families with children without a roof over their heads.

That same year, the Southern Nevada Homeless Census found that 60 percent of homeless people were unsheltered, meaning they were living on the streets, in encampments, cars or other places not meant for human habitation. Exactly 55.4 percent of those surveyed were experiencing homelessness for the first time with job loss cited as the primary cause. And more than 800 victims of domestic violence are among those suffering on any night.

On any given night, more than 30,000 Southern Nevada residents, including families with children, couples and individuals of all ages, will experience homelessness.

Thanks to Sought Church, which stepped up to help after seeing a call-to-action social media post, the family and their twins were able to get an emergency hotel room. They’re currently staying at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, a privately funded nonprofit that also offers job training, counseling, food and outreach, among other services. Family Promise of Las Vegas is serving as their case manager. The group works to help homeless families achieve housing stability by providing short-term shelter and meals by partnering with local congregations and the community.

Beyond the devastation of homelessness for families and individuals, it significantly impacts taxpayers, as local government budgets pay for medical care, police and social services. There is still much work to be done.

To get involved in helping end homelessness in Southern Nevada, head to helphopehome.com.