LAS VEGAS (AP) — Homeless people in Las Vegas have been directed to sleep in rectangles painted on the pavement in a makeshift parking lot camp as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a move that is stirring outrage by some on social media.
Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro suggested in a post on Twitter that the city’s homeless should be temporarily placed in empty hotel rooms.
Added actress Alyssa Milano in a tweet: “In Las Vegas, homeless people are sleeping on concrete floor of a parking lot —six feet apart—while all the hotel rooms are empty.”
The white-lined patches of pavement were created by officials in the city known for its hospitality after a homeless shelter closed when a man staying there tested positive for the coronavirus.
City officials said they decided to temporarily place the homeless in a parking lot of a multi-use facility rather than inside buildings that include a stadium, a theater, exhibit space and meeting rooms, because officials planned to reserve them for potential hospital overflow space if needed.
The makeshift shelters come as officials in other states look to protect homeless people. In California, which has the nation’s largest homeless population, Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged thousands of hotel rooms to help homeless people during the pandemic.
Officials in Nevada have not yet proposed putting the homeless in vacant hotels, including the famous casino resorts of the Las Vegas Strip, which began emptying two weeks ago when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered a monthlong halt to gambling and closure of casinos. The resorts were allowed to keep their hotels open to avoid displacing guests or for emergency purposes.
The city of Las Vegas said in a tweet Monday night that it initially tried to provide padded carpeting for those staying in the open-air shelter, but said the carpeting couldn’t be sanitized and officials instead tried to offer mats for some.
“We don’t have enough mats for everyone. We are trying to get more but are having a hard time,” the city said in another tweet. “We’ll continue to provide this temporary respite, while practicing social distancing, for anyone who is suffering from homelessness.”
Nevada health officials reported Tuesday that at least 26 people have died from the coronavirus. More than 1,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 respiratory disease.
Most people with the virus experience mild or moderate fever and coughing that clear up in two to three weeks. Some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can face severe illness, including pneumonia and death.