Photos by Nate Miller
In a turn of events that shocked absolutely no one, the Sacramento Bee revealed today that Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas has been “deporting” its homeless population to Los Angeles and other West Coast cities. This has been going on for five years, and there's no sign that it'll stop soon. The homeless are given one-way tickets out of town and a supply of Ensure, the liquid dietary supplement designed to “promote digestive-tract health.” Sure, Las Vegas doesn’t have any interest in its transient population, but at least they want to help them shit more effectively when they leave.
This is hardly an uncommon practice. Both Beijing and London were accused of deporting their homeless before hosting the Olympics in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City spent political capital defending the tactic in 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union has claimed that the Detroit Police Department is shipping their homeless out of their downtown entertainment district and moving them into areas outside the city center. Los Angeles basically turned a whole section of their downtown area into a magnet for homeless people by building all of their social services and health facilities for the poor in the same neighborhood. It was a nasty bit of social engineering that the city is still paying for, as tuberculosis has been running rampant in this governmet-created Skid Row.
Now, I am often a proponent of hiding problems out of sight. I throw dirty clothes under my bed, put dirty dishes in the sink and never clean them, and stop returning calls from illegitimate children. I mean, whatever. Of course, those clothes start smelling, the old food on the dishes gets moldy, and the kids invariably start asking for money and affection, just like homeless people. Problems don’t magically disappear, but that doesn’t stop people from pretending like they do. It’s just so much easier to be a lazy asshole about a major social issue. I get it, but perhaps with just a modicum of extra effort, the city of Las Vegas can get a bit more out of their underclasses.
Instead of just dumping homeless people in another city and hoping they aren’t smart enough to just come back, here’s a few constructive ideas for how to handle this homeless problem.
Plaster Their Clothes in Advertisements
If we can’t educate, house, or feed the poor, how about puting them to good use—and what's more useful than promoting valuable products? Slap a fast-food restaurant or apparel logo on a homeless person’s jacket and everyone's a little bit happier. Maybe the latest epic science-fiction/comic-book/remake can sponsor the down and out. The perfect ad integration would be with Ensure, since Las Vegas is already force-feeding it to them anyway.
Make Them Park Cars
Look, I can’t find a space in Hollywood half the time. Las Vegas is a nightmare for parking. The problem is a chronic valet shortage in these cities. I’m sure most transients can drive. Also, I can’t think of a more trustworthy person than a homeless guy. Just please don’t change the presets on my radio. Thanks.
Turn Them into Tour Guides
No one knows the streets better than a person who lives on them. This should be a major boon to the tourist industry in Las Vegas. An ex-heroin addict named Slim Charles will be your guide to all the hot spots on the Strip: the best buffets, the loosest slots, and the most advantageous areas to shoot up in private.
Shakespeare in the Park
Las Vegas has many amenities; ample air conditioning, public drinking, and a scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. What Las Vegas lacks is culture. I’m used to being able to go to the opera, like, whenever I want, but where the fuck is the opera in Las Vegas? Where’s the theater district? Teach these homeless people how to act and that culture problem goes away. I, for one, would kill for an all-homeless staging of Much Ado About Nothing.
If you’re going to be a total piece of shit about how you treat your homeless population—the most underserved, unappreciated, neglected group of people in the entire world—then you might as well get creative about it. Hopefully the citizens of Las Vegas band together and take some of these suggestions to heart, because this problem is not going to hide itself.