Another glimpse at Bush's America
Since last month, dozens of people who came here to work have been sent back to home towns from Florida to Alaska, and dozens more will be getting tickets until the $10,000 donation from a private business owner to fund the program runs out. Administered by the local police and Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, the program has succeeded not only in getting some people off the streets but also in revealing the day-to-day exigencies of people that Sandra Lewis, interim executive director of the charity, refers to as "the situational homeless."
"Those are the ones we're targeting, people who are homeless because of loss of a job, or they're unable to find employment, or a promised job didn't materialize, or someone got sick," she says.
"We're not shipping out people who are homeless to be homeless in another state," adds Jeremy Levy, a police officer who helped start the program, explaining that the people return to relatives so they have a place to stay while finding their way back into the economy. "This is about people who want to get a job, want to be employed, want to better themselves."
Levy and Lewis say they knew such a program would be popular; what they didn't expect was that the little charity would be overwhelmed. "I don't know, the world must think Las Vegas has jobs aplenty," Lewis says, scanning the waiting room as another day begins. Every seat is filled. People are waiting outside. The faces are homeless faces, street faces, bus-station faces; the faces of people long used to dysfunction rather than comfort.
There was the following day when they returned to the bus station and saw the locker hanging open, with everything, including their Bible, gone. There were the three months in the Salvation Army shelter, and the walks along the Strip where they were told they could not be hired as waiters or busboys or janitors without an identity card from the Sheriff's Department ($35) and a health card showing they had been tested for communicable diseases ($35), money they didn't have.
There was the daily two-mile walk they began to make from the shelter to the intersection where landscapers troll at sunrise for day laborers. There were six good months in a small apartment when a landscaper hired them to pass out fliers door-to-door in a 6,000-door retirement community, and another month at the Salvation Army when that work ran out
posted by Steve @ 2:08:00 PM