Vegas, more than any American city, seems to really hate their homeless. We've run stories here on the Newswire of Vegas cops arresting people for feeding the homeless, and of the massive homeless population that secretly lives in the tunnels under Vegas--and the priority those underground dwellers place on appearing
to not be homeless. Maybe it's because a town that runs on gambling sees them as a special reminder of the fickleness of luck? Maybe they see them as losers in a great game who should somehow leave the playing area once they've lost? Maybe they're just jerks?
The Las Vegas Sun has hidden many comments that run on this article, but for a full dose of American bilious victim-shaming and poor-hating, check it out here.
[Full disclosure: My father helps run a charity in Vegas that feeds homeless people. He distributes sandwiches and snacks to them most nights of the week.]
Homelessness and the indignity of hurtful speech - Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010 | 2 a.m. - Las Vegas Sun
Freelance writer Rodger Jacobs and his girlfriend Lela Michael moved to Las Vegas from California in 2007 to take care of Rodger's terminally ill mother, and when the recession hit, they ran out of money to move back home. The couple is now living in a weekly rate residential hotel after being kicked out of their North Las Vegas home in August when they fell behind on their rent.
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Even more stinging has been the reaction by many readers to my first essay on being homeless in Las Vegas — mean-spirited remarks that have fueled my decision to leave town. We had arrived here from California in 2007 to care for my ailing mother, at a time when my freelance writing business was following a trajectory parallel to the recession. After her death, we moved to an apartment for two years and then to a North Las Vegas rental home. But we couldn’t afford the cost of maintaining the house that we were contractually saddled with, and in September, under threat of eviction, we moved to a small two-room affair at Budget Suites. Along the way, we have shed most of our possessions; the rest is in a 10-by-10 storage unit, waiting to be redeemed.
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We did receive generous donations from a few readers after I first wrote about our homelessness — money that has been spent on groceries, rent, transportation, laundry, medical expenses and IRS payments.
But any warmth of kindness was lost to judgmental creatures wrapped in their conservative ideology and intoxicated by their own venomous rhetoric. (One reader, Ron, called me a “lazy, lazy lazy loser” and worse.) As journalist and author Michael Scott Moore (“Sweetness and Blood”) wrote on his website Radio Free Mike: “The worst part is that the Sun has uncovered a new and virulent strain of American unfeeling for the unfortunate.”
More than the tale of my plight itself, the vicious online response to the New Homeless series (particularly in Part One) became the story for the press beyond Nevada’s borders. And that will be my take-away from this unwanted experience: how others react to a stranger’s homelessness. During Channel 3’s recent Holiday Helping Hand Drive, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak summed it up best when he said, “Societies are judged by how they respond to those in need.” Indeed, the citizens of Las Vegas have been judged by the shrill voices of a very vocal minority.
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