Counting The Homeless On The Streets, In The Tunnels, And At The Mountains
Throughout Nevada, homelessness remains a big concern.
According to the 2016 Homeless Census and Survey by Clark County Social Service, the number of homeless counted on one night in Southern Nevada in January 2016 was 6,200. But according to the agency, about 30,000 people in Clark County “experience homelessness at some point during the year.”
Merideth Spriggs is the Chief Kindness Officer at Caridad Charity, which she founded. She has also been homeless herself.
Spriggs lost her job during the financial crisis in 2008, then struggled to get a new one. She ended up having to work two minimum wage jobs that didn't pay enough for her to pay her rent. She lost her apartment and had to live in her car, which was ticketed several times for parking illegally. Her car was eventually impounded and she didn't have the money to get it out of impound.
After living with friends, showering at the beach in San Diego where she was at the time and panhandling for money to pay impound fees, she eventually got a job at a shelter.
Spriggs understands the spiral into homeless that can happen to people and how difficult it can be to get out.
Late last month, Caridad Charity participated in the gathering of homeless statistics for the new 2017 census count. Spriggs and her team were assigned the southwest part of the valley where they searched for homeless on the streets, in the storm tunnels and even in caves in the mountains that line the city's southwestern edge.
“What we have found is that 70 to 75 percent of the homeless actually came from the local community,” she said.
Caridad Charity provides what Spriggs describes as "VIP host services" for people in need. Workers and volunteers make sure people get to appointments and will even sit at the county's social services office with them to make sure they're getting the resources they need.
Spriggs advises people know the resources that are available for homeless people so if a homeless person approaches you on the street or in a parking lot you can give them information, rather than food or money.
She also suggests having socks and water handy and offer people in need those necessities.
The figures from this year's homeless count will be out later this year.
Homeless Services - City of Las Vegas
Merideth Spriggs, Founder and Chief Kindness Officer, Caridad Charity