LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) -The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department tells FOX5 it will begin clearing homeless people from drainage tunnels next week for the Super Bowl.
But one homeless advocacy group says tunnels have already been thinned out.
“Since F1, the talk about the A’s coming here, the stadium, all the presence downtown, there’s definitely been more of a presence in trying to clear out the tunnels around the Strip, and to keep it cleared out, more so than in the past,” said Shine A Light Outreach Director Robert Banghart.
In fact, Banghart tells FOX5 there may already be 70% fewer people in tunnels near the Strip. He says around 30-40 people were living in a tunnel near the Rio but says right now, there may be only three or four people there.
“On the route I usually do, it seems in the underground tunnels around the Strip it’s down to bare minimum,” he said.
Shine A Light goes into drainage tunnels to provide emotional support, supplies and even an immediate way out of tunnel life if people choose. The group will get people into detox right away and work to place them into sober living and eventually into independent living.
“We’ll engage them in our IPATH program, which will be 18 months if they so choose. And every step of the way, we’re going to walk them through all the different levels of care,” said Banghart.
It is illegal to be in washes and tunnels and some people have been cited for trespassing. Banghart says each contact police or others have with people is an opportunity to help find them resources.
“Luckily, we have a really great partnership with Metro and all the different services. And we’re out there with them trying to help and see what we can do to be another extension. We just believe that we’re one community. So how can we help? What else can we do?” said Banghart.
Metro Police tell FOX5 they’ll be doing tunnel sweeps next week and moving people out as part of security for the upcoming Super Bowl in Las Vegas. Police say they will make in-person announcements and will offer other places for people to access housing.
Police say once tunnels are clear, people will not be allowed back in until after Super Bowl. Shine A Light estimates about 1,500 people live in valley tunnels.
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