Bright lights of Las Vegas cast a shadow over its burgeoning poverty
Beneath the glitz, glamour and gambling that is synonymous with the Las Vegas Strip, live hundreds of downtrodden beings, in a series of storm drains that run underneath the city and its suburbs.
By James Quinn in Las Vegas
Published: 11:02PM GMT 27 Jan 2010
[ . . .]
Usually a warm, dry environment, five freak days of rain flooded the city, and the tunnel dwellers saw their cardboard-box homes washed away.
The situation brings into stark relief an increasingly dark side to the neon-lit city of Las Vegas. Poverty and homelessness are two of the city’s biggest social problems, spurred by financial disparities and the continuing US recession.
Despite the billions of dollars that go through the hands of croupiers and cashiers along the Strip, many Vegas citizens fail to feel the benefits. The city’s most recent homeless census, conducted this time last year, found that 13,338 people sleep rough in Las Vegas, up from 11,417 two years earlier.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the area’s two homeless shelters have just 552 beds between them.
Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that 11.9pc of Las Vegas’s 550,000 population live below the poverty line. This rises to 14.8pc in the old downtown area, north of the Strip – the original destination for visiting gamblers.
[ . . . ]
Walking along the line, the stories are all the same; people selling heirlooms and personal possessions to cash them in for money for basic needs.
Estimates from local charities put the number of Las Vegas locals struggling with hunger at one-in-eight people.
And just over 45pc of school children in the Clark County area of the county in which Vegas sits are enrolled to receive free school meals because of their family’s low income.
As a result, food banks are beginning to run out. Las Vegas’s Three Square Food Bank served £17m worth of food last year, and is doing all it can to keep the charities it serves stocked.
The whole situation is being aggravated by the area’s unemployment rate, close to 13pc, which has been worsened not only by recession but the area’s tourist-related problems.
One woman who knows what this feels like is Delores Witherspoon, a middle-aged single mother of one, who lost her job at Southwest Gas in February last year.
“Some days I ate, some days I didn’t,” she recalls, stressing her main aim was to put food on the table for her daughter and her ill grandmother.
[ . . . ]
As a former employee of MGM Mirage’s Bellagio casino on the city’s Strip, she received a call about available jobs at the company’s soon-to-open $8.5bn CityCenter complex.
Six days before her grandmother died, in August 2009, she got a job, as a security guard at the development’s Vdara hotel, greeting guests.
[ . . . ]
Witherspoon, who is waiting for the bank to foreclose on her former home and now in a small apartment in east Las Vegas, says she is happy to be busy and working.
(excerpt from Telegraph UK article)
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)
Part of the World Bank
Aims to reduce poverty in middle-income and credit-worthy poorer countries by promoting sustainable development through loans, guarantees, risk management products and analytical and advisory services.
International Development Association (IDA)
The arm of the World Bank that provides interest-free loans and grants to low-income countries.
Since January 2005, has provided a total of US $308 million for Haiti (not including new money flowing in for disaster relief after the earthquake.)
In addition, trust funds administered by the World Bank have given more than US$55 million since 2003. Plus there have been moneys given from a variety of other sources, income streams, US and UN development funds, corporate funds, investors, organizations (NGOs), charities, and the Inter-American Development Bank along with other international development fund sources.
Recently on CNN – there was a mention that the power plant in Haiti has been devastated by the earthquake but before the earthquake it was only running at 50% which meant that only 8 hours of electricity was being supplied to any one neighborhood at a time each day.
There continues the call for clean, fresh, potable, water and water systems, despite grants, loans and investments by the US and international development communities to do that very thing in substantial amounts since 1977 / 1981/ 1992 / 2003 / 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.
Now, after watching several days of Davos and that of the summit last year at Davos, listening to the interviews with those attending and in light of the studies I’ve been making about funds which have been pouring through Haiti for years only to leave it with an infrastructure negligent and poor before the earthquake – I would say something is very wrong in the way money works (or in fact, doesn’t do what was intended.)
I’ve listened to the State of the Union address, read President Sarkozy’s speech at Davos, watched the testimony of Geithner and Paulson in pieces (again) and witnessed the town hall meeting held by President Obama and Vice President Biden in Tampa, Fla. today. And, then watched the interviews throughout the night and today from Davos with Barney Frank, Jean Claude Trichet and George Soros. I thought about the $4.5 Billion + that has gone into Haiti over the course of the last ten years without solving any of the most basic problems that are still there even today and will continue to need to be solved in areas of basic infrastructure, poverty, education, opportunity and economic development. And, I think why is it that local populations from Las Vegas to Haiti to London to New Orleans to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. to Iceland have continued to be treated like the intruders, the unworthy and the undesirable – by the money men and women around the world? How is that possible?
I say this because in each case, the entities that are no more than corporate interests of a few are served at the expense of the many, and because interest-free loans, grants, services gratis, incentives, perks, opportunities, economic opportunities, funding, tax-free packages and special building / development packages are put up for them which serve no one’s pockets but their own. And in many cases – these funds and opportunities are being made available from our pockets, our taxes, our charitable donations and our dollars through international development banks and regional development groups around the US and around the world.
If they shared that windfall? If they made pay commensurate with the profits they take from it? If they were required to place funds to some extent back into the place where they are harvesting their profits to provide improvements in local infrastructures, education, resources, roads, schools, hospitals, and quality of life? If they were required to keep both feet in the country or county or city where they profit by those funds underwriting them and by taking advantage of those resources including human resources in those communities? What would work?
The local people wherever they are – aren’t the deadbeats and bad guys compared to the corporate entities served with greater regard than us. The voice and desires and hunger for necessities does not count greater for those with business interests than for the local and national populations of individual needs and voices. There is no need for a corporation nor for a business nor for banks and financial institutions without the needs of the public and the real people they were designed to serve in a greater arc of advantage than the ceo’s, bankers and politicians that run them.
What if, the reason that these funds going into development around the world and in cities across America, the Caribbean and throughout developing economies as well, will never do as they were intended without the participation and involvement of applied intelligence with a set of priorities which place the profits in the hands of the communities rather than in the pockets of consultants, bankers, entities outside the country or community, Wall Street, and paid politicians / development fund managers / financial administrators.
My other note –
It is really, really, really disgusting to watch Stephen Schwartzmann, CEO of Blackstone flitting around Davos telling everybody including the news, that (my paraphrasing,) you’re going to scare the banks and they won’t lend, won’t extend credit and won’t invest – they will restrict credit because of the negative “tone” about them. Well, they are a bunch of shits or we wouldn’t be in this mess which has destroyed lives, families and communities across the United States and throughout the world. They can all go to hell and would be doing us a favor.
They aren’t lending now after having been given our money to cover their gambling free-for-all profiteering and risk taking. I am figuring out which toilet paper to buy for less than $2.00 and they are stealing that $2.00 from my back pocket to use to cover their bets because they made a boo-boo on the way they perceived the “risk”. Now, wait a minute . . . I wouldn’t have spent my money that way, why do they get to steal it from the taxes we’ve paid and spend it that way to suit themselves and make a profit from it while ruining three generations of people’s lives, livelihoods and opportunities across every population in the Western economies?
And somebody needs to look at Blackstone anyway – as a place where regulation is desperately needed considering it has become “too big to fail” as well and if people wanted their money back from them today – they couldn’t give it . . .