Las Vegas, NV - Lately the mainstream media has used the Las Vegas homeless population as a scapegoat, painting them as a population of drug addicts and criminals. But when joining the local chapter of non-profit organization Food Not Bombs it’s abundantly clear that the media has been misrepresenting these individuals.
Food Not Bombs makes its way to Circle Park at least three times a week to feed those in need. The meals are always free and usually accommodate vegetarians and vegans.
Food Not Bombs volunteers Joey Lankowski and Kelly Patterson (center) help serve food to those who have come to Circle Park. August 6, 2018, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Johnnie Wade
After interacting with Sandy Pierce and Ross Yazdy, two individuals that frequent Circle Park it became clear that many of the stereotypes associated with the population were not an accurate representation. “I am everything and nothing,” Yazdy said.
Yazdy’s sense of humor seems heroic when considering his circumstances. He blames the cost of living and minimum wage as the main factors that played into his homelessness.
“I get my retirement but rent has gone up so much in the past year that it all went to rent,” Yazdy said.
Sandy Pierce who has only been homeless for the past week describes a similar experience. “I couldn’t afford my apartment so I started sleeping in my car,” Pierce said.
Sandy Pierce shares her experience of living in her car with her two chihuahuas. August 6, 2018, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Johnnie Wade
Pierce prefers sleeping in parks and her car to shelters since the shelter won’t allow her to keep her dogs.
Both Pierce and Yazdy were full of laughter. They obviously voiced concerns about the cost of living in Las Vegas but had nothing else negative to say about the city, the media representation of the homeless population or police treatment. “I’ve never had any problems with the police because I speak my mind and speak to all of them,” Yazdy said.
In an article published by The Atlantic, “How Health and Homelessness are Connected-Medically,” it stated that Nerdwallet, a financial advisor firm, estimates that 57.1 percent of Americans go bankrupt due to medical bills. If one becomes ill, then it becomes more default to hold a job. The U.S. healthcare system is intertwined and dependent on an employer, once you are no longer able to work then shortly after you lose your healthcare.
People gather around the table to receive their food provided by Food Not Bombs. August 6, 2018, Las Vegas, NV. Photo by Johnnie Wade
Beth A. Rubin, Professor Emeritus University of North Carolina Charlotte, and James D. Wright, sociology professor at University of Central Florida, stated, in their Tulane University dissertation “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?”, that the claims of Ronald Reagan that people are homeless because they choose to be is dismissible. This point of view states that homelessness is merely an exercise of a lifestyle that lends itself without worries of mortgages, the busy urban life and having a family. Rubin and Wright stated that the factor that leads people to homelessness is: Mental illness, substance abuse or more importantly an inadequate supply of affordable housing.
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