Following the temporary closure of a shelter operated by Catholic Charities, homeless people in Las Vegas were directed to instead sleep in an outdoor parking lot.
The space was opened by the City of Las Vegas and Clark County officials over the weekend, per the New York Times, despite the fact that the city is currently rife with empty casinos and vacant hotel rooms due to COVID-19. The parking lot rests on the upper floor of a convention center parking deck and includes 24,000 square feet of carpet being used as sleeping mats, all placed six feet apart to honor social distancing guidelines. Portable toilets and washing stations are also available on-site.
According to the report, the lot was chosen instead of the convention center buildings themselves, due to officials wanting to keep those open in case of hospital overflow related to the virus. The aforementioned Catholic Charities shelter was closed after a homeless man staying there tested positive for COVID-19. As it stands now, the shelter is set to re-open this Friday.
Still, the choice to place homeless people in an outdoor parking lot has received widespread criticism, namely due to the high numbers of empty hotel rooms and other indoor options.
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, for example, slammed the city of Las Vegas earlier this week for "criminalizing homelessness." He also highlighted the 150,000 unused hotel rooms in the city.
"How about public-private cooperation (resources) to temporarily house them there?" he proposed.
Other public figures including Alyssa Milano also expressed disgust at Las Vegas' handling of the situation: