Vegas Unstrong

Did you know that Vegas has at least 5 homeless shelters? Did you know that if you ‘happen to become homeless after 5 pm you’re pretty much out?

Out on the street of course. One of over 2500 Street people in Vegas.

Did you know that there are many reasons why people “become homeless?” Did you know there are people who actually care about these situations without judgement?

Jen who runs @the_sidewalk_project in LA’s skid row is one of those. She says this about the “unhoused” :

BEING UNHOUSED IS NOT A CRIME, IT IS A CIRCUMSTANCE; a circumstance that expands far beyond just the individual that you see. It is most often a result of generations of poverty, violence, racism, classism, ableism, sexism, prejudice, abuse, and traumas that most of us will never have to experience.

There are other reasons of course, for becoming homeless and those who struggle with addiction and become homeless are usually shunned of my Papa’s favorite sayings:

You made your bed, you can sleep in it….

But let’s go back to Vegas.

What do you do when your 35 yr old amazing entrepreneur, funny, kind, now addicted son texts you that he’s been stranded in Vegas due to his friends ‘coworkers’- who knows? getting arrested?

Nar-anon diehards would say, “He’s an adult, he’ll figure it out.”

This mom says, “Son that’s sounds awful, what are your plans?”

Of course he didn’t know what to do. He just “needed some money, or a room or a bus ticket home”.

Well we all know you can’t give a person with substance use disorder money. So that’s out.

After several hours of back & forth dialogue- trying to squelch his fears of the shelters checking his warrants; his desperation finally gave in and he just wanted sleep. I immediately offered a long ride to a rehab in Arizona that I hurriedly found, as a last-ditch desperate effort to play on his exhaustion. But that didn’t work. He said they would have him arrested in Arizona. He did agree to go to the Las Vegas Rescue mission to sleep. However, upon arrival, it was closed up, full and not accepting any more occupants. The next thing I knew my son was running from some guys who were threatening. “Got jumped” was his words, but who knows? It’s super hard to believe someone who’s brain is hijacked and has only one goal in mind most days.

He finally made it to Golden Nugget where I Ubered ( Lyfted) him to the airport to catch the shuttle since by then, it was early morning. By that time he was exhausted; in withdrawals, I suspected, and hungry and cold- even though the Lyft driver assured me that it wasn’t THAT cold there.

Well, the Lyft driver was in his car in the 43-degree weather all night. My son was outside most of the might with only one shoe that he rescued from the work truck before it was impounded.

If this sounds like a whole lot of drama and chaos, I agree.

Life with a person with substance use disorder is a whole lot of chaos and drama.

But it doesn’t mean their life is any less valuable.

I believe that addicts shouldn’t be criminalized for simply having this disorder that they temporarily can’t resolve. Just as homeless people shouldn’t be criminalized for having less than society’s expectations.

Alas, my son made it out of Vegas without further scars on paper; but the trauma inflicted on a person’s dignity when they don’t have the basics to live, is stored in their body as another layer of shame.

I’m not saying he didn’t make his bed, to begin with- by taking that first drink or drug. Like many of us who think it will never happen to us, his whirlwind downfall happened like quicksand swallowing a lone worm who was just looking for a nice warm spot to rest and feel better.

Photo by Sean Thomas- Upsplash

This worm, with makings of a beautiful butterfly inside; seemingly lost in the wet sticky sand; may just be hibernating. Awaiting it’s chance, it’s lifeline back to life. A beautiful creature ready to spread it’s wings again on this thing called life.

I believe that it’s us, with the healthy brains, who have the lifelines.



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Samantha Waters

Soon to be author, present day nurse, Mom & 55 year old Grandma, future relax by the pool New York Times Best Seller!