Fireworks and fur coats. Any idea what is spent on these items?
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, the U.S. spends more than $1 billion on fireworks each year, and the fur trade, according to the International Fur Federation, is estimated at $35.8 billion. That’s $36.8 billion on “stuff” we don’t need to live. Yet, we spend money on what we don’t need when so many don’t have shelter on any given night. Where are our priorities?
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s point-in-time homeless census and annual estimate of homelessness data for 2018, there were 3,884 folks out in the streets of Southern Nevada on any given night. The 2018 annual estimate for the number of homeless people in Southern Nevada was 16,641. Let the numbers sink in, please.
What kind of people are we who spend so much on what we don’t need — and I’m not even including what is spent on yachts, champagne, caviar, vacation homes, luxury cruises and vacations, entertainment, the latest gadgets and $4 cups of coffee. Maybe we should look at who we are and what priorities we set for ourselves.
Everyone needs to provide for themselves and their family, but then what? I guess it comes down to how much we feel responsible for our fellow human beings. I believe, with all my being, that all of us are connected to one another. I have a responsibility to share with those who have little.
To be perfectly honest with you, I care for a selfish reason. It makes me happy. I feel good when I’m cooking for those who might not get another meal that day. I enjoy collecting clothes folks will never wear and driving to the CARE Complex in Las Vegas to help stock its clothes closet for folks who need something presentable for a job interview. I love passing out bags of homemade cookies or fudge to folks who haven’t had something homemade in weeks or months or so long ago they can’t remember. The feeling I get when I give a person what I made is beyond words. So, I’m selfish this way, and I love it. Yup. Guess I want others to be selfish, too.
A few weeks ago, I set up a fundraiser on Facebook. I was hesitant, but I did it anyway. More than two dozen friends of mine and four complete strangers, two from Pahrump, donated to the fundraiser so my gang of friends could buy food to provide a meal for folks in Las Vegas. I was overwhelmed with their generosity and raised enough money to provide not one but at least four meals for the 300-500 folks we usually serve. Not only that, but folks volunteered to help me cook the meal and bake cookies. And then, a friend offered me a freezer where I can store food. Another friend has connected me with some of his friends who want to become a part of our volunteer group. Caring people I don’t even know are out there.
We need to merge our resources to feed and shelter these neighbors of ours. This is not an insurmountable problem. If the homeless census shows we can shelter 2,199, why can’t we shelter the other 3,884?
The Association of Religion Data Archives lists 806 congregations with a membership of 697,799 in Clark County. With that many groups from African Methodist Episcopal Church to Zoroastrian, it seems logical that space exists in Clark County to shelter 3,884 folks. I know Family Promise of Las Vegas works with about three dozen churches to shelter families on a regular basis.
It also seems logical that there are lots of caring folks out of the 697,799 who want to help shelter and feed folks and get them the services they need. So, what are we waiting for?
Dozens of service providers, social workers and faith-based congregations exist. Better cooperation among these groups, and all of us, must take place to solve this issue. That takes heart and action, not mere talking and studying.
Shelter is needed for 3,884 in Clark County, yet countless homes and apartments sit vacant. There is a solution. Who cares?
Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-339-9082.