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Las Vegas parking lot turned into temporary homeless shelter after coronavirus case shuts facility

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A parking lot in Sin City is now serving as a temporary homeless shelter after a facility had to be closed when a man tested positive for coronavirus last week.

The city of Las Vegas said in a news release that in coordination with Clark County and area homeless providers, a temporary shelter opened Saturday in the parking lot of the Cashman Center.

“We’re planning for seven days, but certainly that’s really dependent on how quickly Catholic Charities gets reopened and how quickly the other facility is open,” Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones told FOX5.

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The Southern Nevada Health District said Wednesday in a news release a man who later tested positive for COVID-19 received help “while he was symptomatic” at the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and the Homeless Courtyard, which are both operated by the city of Las Vegas.

People wait to be screened before entering a homeless shelter set up in a parking lot in Las Vegas on Saturday.
(Clark County Nevada)

Homeless populations are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, which can be spread through coughing and sneezing.

The closure of the facility after the man tested positive for coronavirus left about 500 people with no overnight shelter. Officials put together the open-air site in the parking lot at Chasman Center, which will be operating from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day through April 3, when it is believed Catholic Charities will be reopened.

“It’ll be an open-air facility that will allow them a safe and facility to come in. Spend the night, especially since the fact that Catholic Charities takes in about 500-plus a person tonight,” Las Vegas Ward 5 City Councilman Cedric Crear told FOX5.

Volunteers and workers set up a temporary homeless shelter in a parking lot in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Volunteers and workers set up a temporary homeless shelter in a parking lot in Las Vegas on Saturday.
(Clark County Nevada)

The site includes a “sea of blue mats” placed in the parking lot that will allow individuals to be spaced at least six feet apart.

The site was staffed with Touro University medical students and physician assistants who helped screen people entering the site when it opened on Saturday

“Our goal is not to turn anybody away,” Crear told FOX5.

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According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, 66 people stayed in the temporary shelter area on Saturday night while a few dozen bundled up Sunday night under blankets as temperatures dropped in the region.

The temporary homeless shelter was staffed with Touro University medical students and physician assistants who helped screen people entering the site when it opened on Saturday.

The temporary homeless shelter was staffed with Touro University medical students and physician assistants who helped screen people entering the site when it opened on Saturday.
(Clark County Nevada)

City officials have said that those with fragile health or mobility problems will still be accommodated at the 
Courtyard Homeless Resource Center. Some people who were checked at Cashman Field the night before came to the Courtyard on Sunday and said they wouldn’t go back to the parking lot site.

“Here, if you move your elbow, you goin’ to bump someone. But we have mats to sleep on,” Johnny Wingo, 63, told the Review-Journal. “There, there’s no tent; what if the rain comes?”

City officials have contended that they made the best of the situation, with limited time and hard-to-get resources such as portable toilets and hand-washing stations. Las Vegas Director of Community Services Kathi Thomas-Gibson told the paper parking lot shelter came together in a matter of hours and has been a quick response “to the need.”

“All of us kind of banded together so we could offer choices to people,” Thomas-Gibson said.

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Nevada has the third-highest rate of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in the country, behind California and Oregon.  A study released in fall 2019 by safety resource website Security.org placed Las Vegas among the top 10 cities in the nation grappling with the ongoing homelessness crisis, with Sin City ranking seventh.

As of Monday, Nevada had 920 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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