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Las Vegas officials tour homeless campus expansion

Kathi Thomas and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, both in hard hats, embraced on a chilly Thursday afternoon at the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center. “It’s happening!” said Thomas, director of the city’s Office of Community Services.

Goodman had arrived to tour the all-but-finished first phase of expansion for the city’s open-air complex. With the project expected to be done in early January, a second phase will follow, finalizing a $25 million upgrade for the courtyard that will nearly triple its overnight capacity, according to Thomas.

The courtyard currently can accommodate about 300 people sleeping on mats outside. That number will climb to 500 beginning next month and to 800 after the second phase is completed, Thomas said.

The low-barrier center, meaning anyone is welcome even if they are not sober, launched in 2017 as a safe haven for the region’s homeless and to include a range of services, inspired by city officials’ visit to a similar campus in San Antonio.

“It means everything,” Councilman Cedric Crear said after taking the tour. “Having a low-barrier shelter in our region is going to make a huge difference in helping us to mitigate homelessness.”

Crear, who represents Ward 5, where the courtyard is located, also touted the innovation of the campus.

The first phase of expansion, which the city allowed the media to tour, revealed a 25,000-square-foot covered outdoor area, a guest services building, a day room and showers and restrooms. There was also a room, known as a “hot box,” that uses sustained heat to kill bed bugs from removed clothing and personal items.

The indoor day room can be a sleeping area with cots on occasions when the weather is too bad, according to Crear.

The guest services building has a mailroom because the complex is the address on record for about 1,700 homeless people. It also has a computer lab, where guests can apply for jobs or connect with family, and a satellite court, where the city said it will partner with its municipal court and UNLV law students to quash warrants.

Goodman said all the services offered in the expanded courtyard are available now.

“This is just broadening everything so we can service more people,” she said.

The project’s second phase will add an administration building, pet kennel and parking lot. The administration building will be home to laundry services, more showers, office space and other services for guests, according to the city.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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