LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Without protection from the state or federal government, many who are facing eviction may be wondering, 'Where do I go?'
One of the worst consequences could be more people living on the street. 13 Action News looked into the recent rise in homelessness, particularly those who have no choice but to live in their own car.
In March, 13 Action News introduced you to Brian Ward, the Las Vegas man who chose to live in his van, rather than racking up more debt during the pandemic.
"There’s a rental moratorium, right? And I actually took advantage of that for a couple of months. But then I realized accruing more debt is just stupid. I still manage to have other bills, so I gave up my apartment and decided to reside in my vehicle," said Ward at the time.
He's not alone. According to the most recent point-in-time homeless count, as of Jan. 27, more than 5,000 people were experiencing homelessness in Southern Nevada. Clark County officials couldn't estimate how many of them are living in a vehicle, but say more than half don’t have a shelter they can call home.
"I believe that number is absurd," said Arnold Stalk, the founder of Share Village, a nonprofit that works to help homeless families and veterans in the valley. Stalk says the county's homeless count is way too low.
"I believe that number to be at least 15,000, plus another 15,000-20,000 for people that are at risk, those people that are one paycheck away from homelessness, have been laid off, that are in a crisis," said Stalk.
Share Village never closed for COVID-19, and Stalk says he's seen Las Vegas' homeless population steadily grow during the pandemic, including the number of families forced to live out of a vehicle.
"We have a lot of homeless families that are living in their car. How do you explain that to a child? What hope does a child have when they're living in a car that they're calling home and the dysfunctional state of that family is extraordinary. We see it all the time," said Stalk.
He says life in the car is better than life on the street, but not a life he'd recommend for anyone.
"It causes physical harm, it causes psychological harm, it’s incredibly demoralizing. A lot of what you see now is the romanticizing of poverty. There's nothing romantic about sitting in a car when you have no place to go," said Stalk.
Stalk is anticipating what he calls a tidal wave of homelessness, and if local leaders want to avoid that, he says they better start building more affordable housing.
"It’s a huge concern. There’s no housing! I’m hopeful that the city and county have a plan and North Las Vegas and Henderson need to really be ready for what’s going to happen because people have to go somewhere," said Stalk.
If you're facing eviction or homelessness right now, there is still money and resources available to help you avoid that, but you have to act now.
If your landlord gives you an eviction notice, you still have options to stay in your home while you wait for CHAP funding or a resolution. Click this link from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada for instructions on how to respond to an eviction notice, inform the court, and request mediation.