I've been visiting Las Vegas since 2016. I stayed one month the first time I came. It was awesome :-D I obviously came to play and shoot poker. I did relatively well over the years. I won some money playing overall and I established myself as some sort of a relevant poker reporter in the poker capital of the world. Over time though, I've learned that Las Vegas is indeed that figurative mirage in the desert but the Strip is a mirage within the mirage. Those who want to get to know what the city really has to offer, need to get off that overrated tiny part of Las Vegas Boulevard and meet the real people of Las Vegas: its workers, its inhabitants, its rejects, and also its caretakers.
Meet the real Las Vegas people
Today, I spend a lot of time in Nevada and together with Rude Monkey Travel, we like to explore the world ourselves but we also bring many visitors to Las Vegas in order to share our experiences. One of our credos, is that it is possible to travel and to interact with local communities without leaving a trail of capitalist desolation in our wake. Gentrification is brutal in Las Vegas, especially in DTLV where the huge new multi-billion-Dollar resorts attract more and always wealthier populations to the zone. Giants like the Resorts World, the Fontainebleau, or the Circa, and everything that comes with it in terms of urban development around them enhance the visitor experience and they are reshaping some local social interactions but not everybody is benefiting from it.
Home is where the Heart is
Homelessness is a real issue in Las Vegas. Bad luck, bad decisions ... it's easy to slip off the right path in Sin City but in many cases, people simply struggle to make ends meet decently and there is not much margin for error or unforeseen problems when living from paycheck to paycheck in a pricey city.
It was through Rude Monkey Travel's strong local network that I came in touch with CaridadLV, a local social structure that aims to tackle homelessness and social isolation. Its missions range from facilitating accommodation solutions to finding work opportunities, or simply collecting and distributing food and clothing. They also organise activities to protect and improve the quality of life on the street. The organisation is supported by the City of Las Vegas and counts on the support of individuals, artist collectives, and local business to accomplish its missions throughout the year surrounded by its network of volunteers.
Although I technically don't have a home myself, my situation is different. My homelessness is a choice, a luxury as a matter of fact. Over the last years, Las Vegas has become one of the places where I spend most of my time, so it makes a lot of sense for me to get involved and interact with local artists and organisations.
Community Clean-Up & Silent Disco
One of the regular CaridadLV activities is a community clean-up. Nothing fancy or sophisticated is happening usually. We pick up trash and dangerous items like broken glass or injection needles in order to make the streets cleaner and safer. Everybody is welcome to help. Equipment is provided and it's very entertaining when local artists join the movement to make it more fun. This December, for instance, a group of local DJs offered to establish a base in the heart of the Downtown Alley with three DJ stations providing good mood music via wireless headphones distributed to all the volunteers participating in the clean-up of the blocks around.
Thanks to Shake Shack for providing drinks and shelter too.
There is an extensive photo album online in the photo archive with impressions of the December 16th, 2023 silent disco clean-up. View all the photos of the Saturday morning clean-up via the link to the embeded album below. Spread the word, join next time with some friends or family members, and let's take care of our streets together.
Souvenir Photo Archive (Saturday, 16th December 2023)
All photos are HERE.