How Las Vegas Sands is Fighting the Homelessness Problem in Southern Nevada

Jun 15, 2018 12:05 PM ET

As published in the Las Vegas Sands 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Overvi…

On any given night, nearly 6,500 people are homeless in Southern Nevada, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Nevada ranks eighth in the nation for the rate of homeless persons – the smallest region among the metropolitan areas ranking in the top 10 for homelessness. Of that population, more than 60 percent of all homeless people in Nevada are unsheltered, living on the streets in encampments, cars, or other places not meant for human habitation. Las Vegas/Clark County ranks fifth among large metropolitan areas with the highest rates of unsheltered homeless.

These statistics demonstrate that homelessness is one of our corporate headquarters’ most significant and chronic challenges. Even more alarming, Southern Nevada leads the nation in youth homelessness incidence rates. According to the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, Southern Nevada is facing a youth homelessness crisis, with the compounded problem of high incidence rates and a service delivery system that is ill-equipped to handle the caseload. According to HUD data, youth make up a much larger segment of the overall homeless population in Southern Nevada than the national average – with youth accounting for 24.7 percent of Southern Nevada's over homeless population in 2016, compared to the national average at 6.54 percent. In addition, the State of Nevada ranks first in the rate of unaccompanied homeless youth living unsheltered.

Three years ago, Las Vegas Sands made a long-term commitment to positively impact these disturbing numbers. Through Sands Cares, the company has undertaken a multi-year, multi-faceted engagement to drive change through three key strategies: providing immediate relief to the homeless population; helping find long-term solutions to the problem; and increasing awareness and advocating for homelessness support among the broader community. In 2017, Las Vegas Sands supported those strategies by allocating nearly $1 million to fight homelessness, with a major emphasis on impacting the youth homelessness problem. Highlights of Las Vegas Sands' homelessness engagement included partnerships with nonprofit service providers such as Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, HELP of Southern Nevada, and many others. Special initiatives included introducing the community’s first mobile shower unit to help homeless people get a “Fresh Start” to their days, as well as establishing the region’s first community-wide Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit to engage local officials and leaders, service providers, and public institutions in deep learning about the issue and kicking off a coordinated and comprehensive regional plan to fight youth homelessness.

Bringing the Homelessness Commitment to Life

Delivering on its strategies to provide immediate relief to people living on the streets as well as to be an advocate for change, Las Vegas Sands worked with community partners in 2017 to establish two innovative programs designed to have a long-term impact on the homelessness problem in Southern Nevada.

Intersections: The 2017 Southern Nevada Youth Homelessness Summit

Las Vegas Sands teamed with the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth to host Intersections, the first annual Southern Nevada Youth  Homelessness Summit.  With support from the UNLV  Greenspun College of Urban Affairs and the Las  Vegas Review-Journal, the inaugural Summit showcased the issue through a myriad of presentations and interactive sessions featuring the state of youth homelessness, a compelling first-hand account of life on the streets from a former homeless youth, a private screening of a new hard-hitting documentary film on youth homelessness and interactive    focus group sessions exploring the intersections between youth homelessness, and other problems such as human trafficking, education, immigration, and LGBTQ issues.

“Homeless youth get lost in a system that is currently better at addressing the outcomes of their situation – for example, crime, substance abuse, trafficking, pregnancy, and truancy – instead of the root cause of not having the fundamental support system of a reliable home,” said Arash Ghafoori, executive director of Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. “We can impact many of these issues if we solve the underlying problem of getting kids off the streets, and that’s why we worked with Las Vegas Sands to establish the Youth Homelessness Summit.”

Attended by more than 300 local leaders and service providers, Summit 2017 kicked off a year-long planning process to create the Southern Nevada Plan to End Youth Homelessness. This comprehensive regional action plan will be unveiled at the 2018 Summit and will guide community efforts to impact the significant youth homelessness problem in the coming years.

Fresh Start Mobile Showers

When facing the problem of finding the basic necessities of food and shelter, getting a shower to stay clean and healthy seems like an unattainable luxury. One of the most pressing needs for the homeless population is to take care of their hygiene needs, and in 2017 Las Vegas Sands and Clean the World stepped up with a new community program to ensure the availability of hot showers while lifting the spirits of people living on the streets.

Introduced to the community in July 2017, the Sands Cares Fresh Start Mobile Showers travels to various locations that serve the homeless population four days a week, offering hot showers, along with resources for food, emergency shelter, clothing, and medical care. In the first six months of operation, Fresh Start provided more than 3,100 showers to more than 500 new and returning clients.

“Having access to regular hygiene is a fundamental part of good health and well-being, but it’s also part of personal dignity – it can create a turning point in someone’s life,” said Shawn Seipler, founder and chief executive officer of Clean the World. “That’s our vision for Fresh Start – to give people the opportunity to start their day in a new direction.”

To learn more about CSR programs and initiatives at Las Vegas Sands, view the 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Overview.