Lyle Casterline needed so much help that he wasn’t sure where to start at Tuesday’s Project Homeless Connect.
The 45-year-old homeless man had a bad tooth, a back injury and a warrant issued for his arrest after he failed to take care of the tickets he received for trespassing in the Flamingo Wash and for being in Molasky Park after hours. He also could have stood a good haircut and a hot meal, not to mention a place to live.
“I’m looking for anything I can get,” he said as he walked across Cashman Center’s exhibit hall with a noticeable limp. “I’m just trying to survive.”
Casterline joined hundreds of other homeless people at Cashman early Tuesday morning for the large annual event that provides free housing assistance, medical and legal help, job placement, haircuts and other services to homeless people. Dozens of public and private social service providers, including Clark County Social Services, Catholic Charities and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, were on hand.
The event, formerly called Stand Down for the Homeless, was renamed this year to tie into the national Project Homeless Connect, a model program that has been adopted by cities across the United States.
About 2,000 homeless people were expected to attend during the day.
Casterline wouldn’t have shown up at all if volunteers from HELP of Southern Nevada hadn’t picked up him and a friend at the wash.
Outreach workers for the past couple of years have taken to the street to recruit homeless people instead of waiting for them to show up at the event.
It worked out well for Casterline, who was ushered to the front of a very long line because he was taken in by outreach workers.
But he was still too late to get dental help. Miles for Smiles, a program of Nevada Health Centers, had already signed up 50 people and wasn’t sure whether they’d have time for more.
He had better luck at the legal services area of the exhibit hall, where a makeshift court had been set up and judges from several local jurisdictions were on site to hear misdemeanor cases and process warrants.
Casterline’s warrant was dismissed.
Getting into housing was fairly far down on his list of priorities for the day. Those who work with the homeless say that’s common, and that the legal services area of the event is usually the most popular.
“They get bogged down with petty charges and can’t even attend to housing,” said Linda Lera-Randle El, director of the Straight from the Streets homeless outreach program.
But Shannon West, regional homeless services coordinator for the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition’s Committee on Homelessness, said local transitional programs for the homeless had 300 housing openings that they hoped to fill on Tuesday.
“If we can today house 10 percent of the people who come in the door, I think that’s a success,” she said.
Homeless people also could apply for housing vouchers from Clark County Social Services.
The 15th annual event is a way to offer homeless people hope, Lera-Randle El said.
“It gives them a sense of connection, a light at the end of the tunnel.”
About 11,500 homeless people live in the Las Vegas Valley, according to a recent homeless census released by the Committee on Homelessness.