Homeless in Las Vegas
Stories from the Street
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Title Page, Copyright, Epigraph
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In my first book, The Word on the Street: Homeless Men in Las Vegas (2005), I created a portrait of homelessness by combining interviews with homeless men with an analysis of local news articles on the topic, showing how these marginalized people shatter the carefully constructed illusion that Las Vegas is only about fun and entertainment. The words and thoughts of...
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I am reading in the Mandalay Bay resort around midnight in mid-September 2005 when I notice a man has fallen asleep nearby. We are both seated at tables in oversized stuffed chairs. He has a betting paper in front of him. I see the security guard come around the first time, wake him softly, and pat him on the back. The second time, about forty minutes later, the same...
Chapter One. Operating in the Space Between Homelessness and Tourism: Ron and Ricky
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I met Ron and Ricky in Las Vegas in late August 2005. Both African American men were new to the city and recently homeless. They revealed to me the difficulties faced by many new Las Vegas residents who have little savings and who are trying to avoid current and future homelessness. They also showed me the importance of recent technologies being used by...
Chapter Two. In the Rough: Jessi
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I met a group of homeless people, and got to know one in particular, over the course of a few months at a park in downtown Las Vegas called Frank Wright Plaza. Jessi, a middle-aged Native American woman, drinks with other minority group members in the public park. Her recent homelessness seemed connected to a tragic accident. In the park she found comfort...
Chapter Three. Confronting Aggression, Pride, and Need in Former Convicts: Kevin
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Kevin was Caucasian, about five feet seven, muscular, and wore black jeans and a checkered flannel shirt. A former convict with a history of violence, Kevin had recently been released from prison and now sought local work in construction. I met him at the dt c in late November 2005. His face and speaking voice reminded me of Harvey Keitel, but his pointed, balding...
Chapter Four. Living Outside the Mainstream with Chronic Alcoholism: Bruce and Alaska
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Bruce and Alaska were both alcoholics living in an open field in the homeless corridor of Las Vegas. Their alcoholism seems life threatening. Their stories suggest how difficult it might be to help them conceive of, and work toward, a life without addiction. I believe their stories also suggest the need for nonjudgmental social services so that such committed alcoholics...
Chapter Five. The Disconnect of Mental Illness: Paul, Melissa, and Cory
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When I met Paul, we had a series of difficult-to-interpret interactions. I believe that he had serious mental illness. He seemed to have problems with communication, maintaining personal hygiene, and maintaining personal relationships. He also seemed to use drugs and to sleep outside. I first saw him in early November 2005 sitting alone, staring out into traffic. He sat cross-legged on gray wool blankets on a trailer pad made of...
Chapter Six. Dealing with the Iron Cage of Bureaucracy: Gary
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Gary is a long-time drug addict. He is also a veteran, a group that is estimated to comprise one-third of homeless people in the United States. I met him in late October 2005. He was Caucasian, and he spoke with a Pennsylvanian accent, which I couldn’t place at first because he also had no teeth. He had sandy blond hair, a moustache, and thick glasses. He stood about...
Chapter Seven. Homeless, Not Criminal: Jack
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Jack, a middle-aged African American man who once had drug problems, seems to have accepted his homelessness. Having served in Vietnam, Jack greatly appreciates the freedoms that come with being a U.S. citizen. He argues that not everyone can find a place in “normal” society and that homeless people still love America but resent the criminalization of...
Chapter Eight. Recently Dislocated: Chuck
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I also met Chuck on the afternoon of November 9, 2005, at the annual Stand Down for the Homeless in Las Vegas. He had a serious criminal record and an unstable upbringing. Listening to his story suggested how he had become homeless. However, he was rare among the homeless people I met because he seemed a likely candidate for rapidly regaining permanent...
Chapter Nine. Avoiding Centralized Programs and Shelters: Karen and Dave
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Like Melissa, Cory, and their friends (see chapter 5), Karen and Dave seemed to work hard to stay independent of and miles away from the social services provided in the homeless corridor of Las Vegas. They had developed alternative means of survival, including sleeping outside and using a sign to solicit cash. Their story indicates the other ways some...
Chapter Ten. Maintaining Friendships: Marco and Manny
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Marco and Manny are friends. Marco is a middle-aged Hispanic male recently separated from his wife in Florida. He works in a fast food restaurant. Manny is an unemployed white male in his sixties. Their story suggests how they support their masculinity while homeless and the challenges homeless people face in maintaining friendships with each other...
Chapter Eleven. Updates
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In this book I describe encounters with some people, like Ricky, Ron, Jessi, Kevin, Manny, and Marco, whom I was able to see on several occasions and over several weeks. Additionally, I was able to catch up with three of these people (Ricky from chapter 1, Jessi from chapter 2, and Manny from chapter 10) several months after our last encounter...
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The people I interviewed in this work often expressed an identity rooted in both freedom and poverty. They were poor, but in a wealthy environment. Homeless people I met in Las Vegas were frequently destitute but were also trying to partake of the city, deciding to purchase nonessential items and engaging in leisure pursuits for the sake of enjoyment or simply...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011