Moving away from a focus on housing as the magic wand for curing homelessness, Las Vegas inaugurated a “homeless campus.” Corridor of Hope is the city’s long-range solution to a pressing problem in Clark County, with the eighth largest homeless population in the country.
The initial phase of the 4.5-acre one-stop shop, which opened about a year ago, allows nonprofit organizations to cluster job, mental health, and addiction services, and, like a day shelter, it provides toilets, showers, and a place to leave belongings.
Officials intend to add legal open-air sleeping facilities in May and gradually improve the temporary “courtyard” into a permanent $15 million facility over the next two years.
“This is really a triage center for homeless individuals who won’t or can’t go into traditional shelters,” Kathi Thomas-Gibson, Las Vegas community resources manager, told Governing. The campus is a “resource center” where people can connect to services, unlike a tent city or encampment where people flow in and out, disconnected from the larger society around them.
The substance-addicted and mentally ill among the homeless have greater needs than a lease, Thomas-Gibson said. Even a good supply of affordable housing does not treat the root causes of their homelessness. The model for the Las Vegas campus, Haven of Hope in San Antonio, features dorms—but only for those who are sober and residents of the county.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that the typical homeless person in the city is a white, middle-aged, childless male with at least one “disabling condition” who recently lost his job and is homeless for the first time.
Las Vegas residents hope the campus does not become the equivalent of a homeless jamboree, attracting people from beyond the area. And detractors point out that the campus model just maintains people’s homelessness.
But the model could benefit people in an extreme climate like Las Vegas if it keeps them secure, off the streets, out of the prison system—at a savings to taxpayers—and more connected to service providers.
Despite a limited track record so far, Community Services director Steve Harsin told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the triage of homeless people coming to the campus will be “intense,” keeping them from having a mindset of “I can hang out in the courtyard for the next three years.” —R.H.