Much needed Help in Downtown Las Vegas
On 11/28/18, just a few short days ago, I went down to “The Corridor of Hope” with a fellow activist and friend Joshua Martinez to share food and drinks with our houseless community for which I was harassed, threatened, lied to, and eventually cited by police.
Lending a helping hand to our most vulnerable has become a passion of mine which is why I joined forces with a group of like-minded, local activists that share my passion and last summer we formed the group Water and Solidarity. This was in direct response to the growing dangers our fellow humans were facing as temperatures skyrocketed almost out of nowhere last summer catching many people off guard resulting in the deaths of seven people in just two days. I am born and raised in Las Vegas and when I heard this it was simply unacceptable. We all knew that Vegas could do better than this so our group started off with the simple goal of getting water to the people in our community who needed it most wherever they may be. Not to be dramatic but it had literally become a matter of life and death and if we could save just one life or even just make one human experience just a little bit more bearable, however temporary, then we knew we were making a difference.
At first, we didn’t even know where to start. We knew we needed water, but where would we go? Upon further research, we discovered that there were already a couple of groups out there doing this which was a refreshing discovery. Naturally, we reached out to them and I ended up partnering with a fellow activist I had met at the May Day March and Rally just a few months prior. Her name is Itzel of #HydrateLV. I joined them for a ride along and learned a lot from them. I learned where houseless folks gathered and took note so that our group could come back on days that Hydrate LV was not going out. What has become known as “The Corridor of Hope” was one of these places.
The Corridor of Hope is used to describe one street in downtown Las Vegas, Foremaster Lane, in between Las Vegas Boulevard and Main Street. This is an area where a lot of people have been going for years because it is where Catholic Charities is located. A few blocks away is The Starvation Army. Shade Tree and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission are a couple blocks down. This year the City also opened up The Courtyard there at 310 Foremaster Lane. In theory, The Courtyard is a low barrier shelter that helps to link people with services. In practice, however, many barriers still remain, not to mention the fact that it only sleeps 150 on mats outdoors.
And it’s not just The Courtyard. All of the services here in the valley are overwhelmed on a daily basis. There simply aren’t enough resources. There aren’t enough beds, they don’t provide enough meals, they just don’t have enough money to provide even the barest of necessities for even 1/3 of our city’s highly underestimated houseless population. That is why there are people sleeping on the streets and that gap in services is where people like us come in. We provide snacks at times when shelters aren’t serving. In the summertime, we brought ice-cold bottled water to Foremaster, while The Courtyard was serving scolding hot bottled water that they let sit on a pallet in the hot Vegas sun. I will forever remember my first ride along with Hydrate LV when a man told me that the water we gave him was the first cold beverage he’d drank in months.
Government Repression of “Unsanctioned” Groups
Unfortunately, in this backward society we are living in, government and large non-profits both view what we do as unwelcome competition rather than seeing us as allies with the same goal. This sad reality is a result of the “Non-profit Industrial Complex.” Like the Military Industrial Complex or the Private For-Profit Prison Industrial Complex, this Non-Profit Industrial Complex has grown into a monster of epic proportions. They receive tax dollars that go to fund six-figure salaries. Most have employees making more than you and I. They have become a bureaucratic shitshow and that’s why people prefer to give directly. They can see where their donations are going.
They can see the good that they’re doing and they know that the donations that they are giving from their own hard-earned money isn’t going to be pissed away by bureaucrats. How much of every dollar that you give to these bloated agencies do you actually think reaches the individual that you are trying to help? Most likely pennies, chump change if you’re lucky. People need to see these organizations for the sham that they are and stop wasting their donations on them. When you think about it, mailing in a few dollars a year is a really lazy, and actually selfish way of “helping” because, in the end, the only thing you’re really buying is piece of mind for yourself so that you can convince yourself that you’re a part of the solution, when in fact, you’re not.
People also need to realize that the government doesn’t really want People helping People. There is power to be realized in helping out your fellow humans. It is a very unique and empowering feeling. The government doesn’t want us to discover that power. Imagine a fully informed, fully active populace, working together hand-in-hand to solve these problems. Such a strong and independent society will inevitably take a look around and ask the question, “So what do would we need government for?” And The State absolutely cannot tolerate that. They want a Nanny State. They want The People completely dependent on them. They don’t want people to realize their full potential. They don’t want us learning the Truth.
The Truth is we can do a lot more with a lot less and do it far more effectively than any government or any professional nonprofit can. Government also doesn’t like sharing the spotlight. When they implement new initiatives, like the M.O.R.E. Team here in Vegas, they want to be able to point to these programs and say “See! Look at us! You need us!” As if they are out there single-handedly solving the homeless crisis. “Don’t worry. Big Daddy Government is here to help!” But people, please, take a moment to look around you. Is what the government is doing really working or are things only getting worse?
A week ago Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick gave a press conference in which she actually said, “You see a lot of people going down the street to give blankets, to give water, to give sandwiches, and what I’ll tell you is that’s not healthy for the homeless.” She was then followed up by LVMPD‘s Deputy Chief Christopher Jones who really helped her hammer home some more negative stereotypes about what we do. He also made an appearance on Fox News to complain about people giving because those items “turn into trash.” Yeah, you know what else turns into trash? Apparently people who work for government! As I’m sure you can all imagine, a lot of other nonsense spewed from their lips none of which makes any logical sense. Homeless haters like these two government parasites like to make the claim that donating directly to people stops them from getting the real help that they need. This is a bogus claim that definitely needs to be broken down. Take what we were doing for example, we go down to where the services are, where the people are, and share items. So how in the hell does that prevent anyone from getting services?! You can literally watch them get coffee from us and walk right back into The Courtyard!
Anyone dumb enough to parrot this government sponsored talking point, I have a challenge for you. Go find me one person living on the street, ask them if that blanket they got, or that water, or that meal, ask them if that is why they aren’t going to get these services. I guarantee you won’t find a single person who’ll say “O thank you for that blanket, now I don’t have to go to Salvation Army anymore.” Or “thank you for the burger I guess I don’t have to go to Catholic Charities anymore.” It’s ridiculous to think that anyone out there is not going to these services because we are giving them a helping hand when they need it most. Look, a few dollars isn’t going to make a mental illness go away. Can you picture it? “O, thanks for the fiver. Cured my schizophrenia right up. Guess I don’t need to see a psychiatrist after all.” A meal certainly isn’t going to cure alcoholism. Try to envision it. “That was a great sandwich. I don’t need a drink anymore. Forget about detox. That sandwich was so damn good I don’t need to get help anymore.” Some water to drink isn’t going to stop a Vet with PTSD from getting help if he wants to get help.
Are you starting to see how silly that whole “argument” is? It’s absurd and it really needs to be done away with so please stop repeating their government manufactured narrative. It is hurtful. It actually has some well-intentioned individuals in our community afraid to go out there and help out, and that’s exactly what They want! I have a message for those of you out there with a good heart. Please, do not allow these slimy politicians and their attack dogs to intimidate you and discourage you from helping out your fellow humans. And I have a message for those individuals peddling this propaganda. I’ll tell you what giving someone a blanket WILL do Commissioner Kirkpatrick and Officer Jones, it may just save someone’s life! Giving water, may just save someone’s life! Shame on you both! This smear campaign that you are engaging in and this latest crack down on Good Samaritans is beyond disgusting. You two are a disgrace to this City!
One of the many things that these entitled assholes in power fail to grasp is that not all of these people on the streets are mobile. Many are disabled and can’t make it to these services. Many are tied down by what few belongings they have left. Space is very limited in these facilities and if they don’t want to part with a lot of their personal items then they will be ineligible for assistance from many of these organizations like The Courtyard for example. Frankly, this is the point that “authorities” can’t seem to get through their thick skulls. Many of these people don’t want ANYTHING to do with these government services. The bottom line is they just don’t trust them. Plain and simple.
Note: If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world. In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.
After years of being treated like a criminal by the State just for the simple fact that they’re homeless, for merely trying to survive…after being beaten by police, harassed day in and day out…after being cited for petty bullshit like loitering, trespassing, obstructing the sidewalk, sleeping in a park, littering, jaywalking, panhandling, and these spineless officers know damn well when they write that ticket that these people can’t afford to pay it. So then what happens? They end up with a warrant, and they end up being arrested, and kidnapped, and caged, and this vicious cycle of abuse goes on and on and on…So I mean honestly, can you really blame them for wanting nothing to do with these people?
Trust isn’t the only thing stopping them from seeking assistance, it’s also health and safety reasons. Many people I have spoken with personally have expressed this time and time again. The conditions at some of these shelters are unsanitary and unsafe. Many describe being eaten alive by bed bugs. Others tell of having their belongings stolen. Many of these services don’t take in whole families. Some shelters only take in men, some only women, some only women and children. Some don’t allow pets. Some only take families. Some only help vets. And ALL of our city’s shelters reach capacity EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! This means that most are turned away. Then you have some who aren’t allowed in because they can’t pass a breathalyzer, some don’t have government papers because often times they are thrown away by the pigs conducting street sweeps like they do 2-3 times a week on Foremaster. These are just SOME of the barriers.
Everybody’s story is different, every case unique, and to suggest that people helping out their fellow human’s is the problem?! Those people need to shut their mouth and get out-of-the-way because for many people doing this good work it has become their calling. For many volunteers this is a religious freedom that they are exercising. For others like Food Not Bombs Las Vegas this is a form of protest which is also protected by the First Amendment. And for all of us, this is about doing good and leaving this world a better place than we found it. As every human being should seek to do. So if you’re just the average Joe and you’re not doing anything to help our houseless community, or you’re in government and you’re pushing propaganda to discourage people from helping however they may prefer to help, or if you work for a nonprofit and you’re bad mouthing the good deeds of others, or if you’re a police officer out there actively trying to stop people from helping , YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! Not Us!
As for the incident itself, about two weeks ago, the crackdown on Foremaster began. Our group Water and Solidarity had been going down to Foremaster every single week for months without a problem. We never had an issue with police. Metro had even pulled up one time, saw what we were doing, and never even came over to say a word to us. Not only had we never had a problem with the police, but in all the time that we’ve been doing this we’ve never had an incident with the people there. Everyone there is always extremely respectful and very grateful. I feel it’s important to point this out because there are many negative stereotypes surrounding people who are unhoused. One of the most common misconceptions is that they are dangerous people. Whether it be with Food Not Bombs or Water and Solidarity, I have NEVER seen this to be true.
So if you have been wanting to help, but have been reluctant to because of an irrational fear, please know that these people are far more likely to be victims of crimes than to commit crimes themselves. Activists often bring their children with them, myself included, not only to teach them a very valuable life lesson in loving and helping your fellow humans but also in an attempt to help dispel this myth. During the time that we’ve been engaging in these actions on Foremaster, we always make sure to come prepared. There are always at least 100 people there, usually somewhere closer to 200. By prepared, I mean we make sure that we come with enough food and snacks for EVERYONE. We also make it a point to bring trash bags and to pick up everything in our area, stuff from us but mostly stuff that was there long before we got there. So the whole argument that what we do just creates more trash is just that, trash.
This is another lie used by the propagandists in power to further push their narrative in a desperate attempt to get others in the community to not follow in our footsteps. Furthermore, all of the snacks that we share are prepackaged. They come in packages, packed in boxes, packed in cardboard cases. I personally make the point of removing all of this unnecessary packaging in order to reduce waste and recycle all of it. So to Deacon Tom Roberts, the president of Catholic Charities over on Foremaster who urged people not to help people on the streets but rather to donate to charities because “That’s the way God intended to reach out to your brothers and sisters in need, not bologna sandwiches that sometimes make them sick.” As if God only approves of charity if you’re donating to a corporate charity. First of all, Jesus was homeless. He would be ashamed of you attacking people who are doing good deeds and helping out the less fortunate. And for the record, we have never handed out bologna sandwiches and nothing served by Food Not Bombs Las Vegas or Water and Solidarity has ever made anyone sick. Nice try though.
Police Intimidation and Fines Against Those Working to Help Needy People
So last week, after we heard about the crackdown, a friend and I decided to engage in an act of civil disobedience. We knew the new risks we could potentially be facing and decided to continue with our work anyways because we felt it was our duty. One of my favorite quotes from Edward Snowden is, “Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to break a law. And the key there is in terms of civil disobedience. You have to make sure that what you’re risking, what you’re bringing onto yourself, does not serve as a detriment to anyone else. It doesn’t hurt anybody else.”
The point being: We would not be doing what we do and doing it how we do it if we were putting anyone else in danger. Period. Foremaster is a wide street. A car parked by the sidewalk isn’t endangering anyone. Every neighborhood in this country has cars parked next to the sidewalk. It is not considered to be a dangerous activity. Furthermore, Foremaster is not used by most people. It is a small side street that through traffic doesn’t drive on. The only cars that go down that street are driven by people dropping off donations or people who work at one of the organizations there. Basically, the only people on Foremaster are those who need help and those who are helping, and now police that are stopping people from helping.
Contrary to popular belief, I was NOT cited for “feeding the homeless.” Thanks to the giving nature and fighting spirit of one of our comrades, Gail Sacco, sharing food is no longer illegal in Nevada. The State tried to ban it back in 2006 and with help from the ACLU, Gail and Food Not Bombs Las Vegas took the fight all the way up to the Supreme Court and had the ban overturned and deemed unconstitutional. I was cited for parking violations more specifically for parking on a red curb ($100) and for parking in a way that created a “Traffic Hazard” ($100).
Make no mistake about it, this had absolutely NOTHING to do with “public safety” or creating a “pedestrian or traffic hazard.” Since sharing food is no longer illegal in Nevada, they tried citing us for anything and everything. I picked up all of the trash in the area (including trash that wasn’t ours) so they couldn’t get us for littering. They threatened us with trespassing but the sidewalk is public property. Then they tried to say that they had surveillance cameras showing that when the folks formed a line that they were obstructing the sidewalk. Lies on top of lies on top of lies!
Somebody in the back of the line was worried that there wouldn’t be enough by the time he got to us so I actually walked up the sidewalk with a box full of snacks and handed them out down the line. This act alone proves that the sidewalk was not blocked. But after all the harassment was said and done and our stuff all packed up, they ended up citing me for parking violations despite the first marshal on scene telling me he was letting me off with a warning. He told me that he would give me an opportunity to gather my things and move my vehicle to avoid a citation. By the way, for people who aren’t familiar with the area, ALL of Foremaster has red curbs, the ENTIRE street! They do this by design so that people like us can’t do what we do. They literally painted the whole street red so that they could criminalize helping out the houseless.
Upon hearing our story, many people online and at my job offered to help me with the fine, so I came up with an idea. Vegas just started a program for the holidays called “toys for tickets” where parking tickets issued in November can be paid by December 19th with toys instead of cash. The toys will go towards Salvation Army’s Angel program and be distributed to children in need. I had originally planned on fighting this ticket in court because I will not give these animals a penny of my hard-earned money but I thought that this would be a much more constructive way of “taking the high road” so to speak and to continue showing the city and our government that We The People can take care of our communities in a much more peaceful and effective way.
So I started a GoFundMe and thanks to the compassion and generosity of others, we were able to turn an unfortunate event into another opportunity to help even more people. The goal was $500. $200 to cover the toys and any additional funds collected going directly to purchased food, drinks, and winter items so that we can continue to do the good work that we do. I am pleased to announce that as of last night we have reached our goal of $500 but please, if you are reading this and feel inspired to help the cause we are still accepting donations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated so far:
- Marilee Hanson
- Ana Cahill
- Brandon Nutton
- Tina Anderson
- Thomas O’Connor
- Paige Gouldby
- Emma Fiala
- Cerrisa Lopez
- Christine Johnson
- Hope Alfaro
- Ryan Wahrenbrock
- Jeanie Frost
- Chris Gualazzi
- Keegan M.
This wouldn’t have been possible without you all. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much it means to me to feel all of the love and support.
Also, thank you to Joshua Martinez for documenting this tyranny (video below). Please support his work by subscribing to his YouTube Channel
Here are all of my Livestreams so if you want you can see everything from beginning to end:
We also talked about this on our most recent episode of ACAB Radio (embedded below)
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