Updated November 9, 2021 - 1:59 pm
The founder of a local addiction treatment center ventured into the tunnels underneath Las Vegas Sunday morning to provide supplies to homeless people living in the shadows of the city.
“Is anybody hungry?” Dave Marlon yelled through the dark underneath Harmon Avenue. An inch of running water moved beneath his feet as he stomped through the tunnels, keeping his head low to avoid spiderwebs dangling above.
When Marlon heard a faint “yes,” he’d rush over to pass out a burrito and a Gatorade.
”I run a detox,” he told every person who would listen Sunday morning. “I’ll take you right now to shower and get clean. We can go today.”
None of the dozen people he met agreed to go, but he gave each of them a card and assured them they could call day or night.
Marlon is the CEO of CrossRoads of Southern Nevada and VegasStronger. Each month he makes the trip into the tunnels with a backpack full of supplies, including food, water and Narcan.
Many of the people Marlon spoke to said they had heard of CrossRoads, which is Nevada’s largest drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Marlon said he’s always surprised when the center’s 182 beds aren’t full.
“Sadly and inhumanely hundreds, potentially thousands of people are now residing in these tunnels,” he said. “People in my village should not be living like this.”
One man told Marlon he wasn’t ready yet. A woman said her husband uses meth but she doesn’t, so she declined his offer. A man with an ankle monitor first declined Marlon’s offers for food and help, but walked up later to quietly speak with him. The two shook hands and Marlon promised to help him “to a better life.”
The 2021 Homeless Point-In-Time Count and Survey, which was conducted on Jan. 27 by Help Hope Home recorded 5,083 people who were homeless in the Las Vegas valley. Fifty-five percent were unsheltered and the vast majority, 93 percent, were single adults.
Of the more than 5,000 homeless, 54 percent reported at least one disabling condition. Of that 54 percent, 86 percent had a substance abuse problem.
“That’s enough that if we work together as a community that we could end homelessness,” Marlon said of the latest totals.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said 86 percent of the5,083 homeless people in the valley had substance abuse problems.