Richard Roman says he felt that Boulder City was giving him the shaft when it ordered him to vacate the underground refuge that has been his home for seven years, but things seemed to fall into place as he packed his belongings and moved out.
“I understand what their problem is: You can’t have people in a hole in the ground out here,” he said last week as he cleared the last of his earthly possessions out of the abandoned mine shaft he made into a home. “I’d rather this than look back 10 years from now and be dead in a cave.”
Roman, 68, was given 30 days to vacate the city-owned property on Dec. 19, according to an email to the mayor and City Council from City Manager Al Noyola.
The move came after city officials determined Roman was violating four city codes and two state laws and raising health and safety concerns by living there.
Roman was not pleased, but he complied.
City spokeswoman Lisa LaPlante said in an email last week that the city plans to close up the mine.
“We do not have a timeline, though I would think that it would be within the next week or two,” she wrote.
The shaft, which descends about 20 feet into the rocky ridge, featured two swinging wooden doors locked into place using spray foam sealant, a customized mattress cut to fit into an elevated corner of the cavern and an old fan salvaged from a scrapped Nissan Altima that pumped air into the hole to maintain a comfortable 85 degrees on even the hottest days.
Roman lovingly painted the slabs on the ceiling and walls gray and adorned them with various knickknacks, including a paddle inscribed with the word “Raiders.”
By Friday, all of that was gone, and Roman was staying with a friend. He plans to do some traveling before settling into a rental unit in Las Vegas in March.
Roman said he disposed of most of the possessions he salvaged or bought for the shaft near the Railroad Pass Casino, including the kitchen counter, bed, solar panels and batteries.
“I don’t want anything that reminds me of the cave,” Roman said. “Even though the cave is a great place for thinking, it’s so peaceful, this is what I need (to do).”
Boulder City began grappling with a small but growing homeless population late last year, when Noyola assembled a task force to help those experiencing homelessness, led by Parks and Recreation manager Julie Calloway.
According to a recent task force update, 10 homeless camps at three locations were cleaned up between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18. No information was included on what became of the people living at those sites.
As for Roman, he said he has come to terms with his eviction and is ready to open a new chapter in his life.
“This was a stepping-off place,” Roman said. “I was enjoying it, but I’ve got to do something. This is the year of 2020.”