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Homeless In The Las Vegas Sun
In The Shadows Of The Las Vegas Strip
Encounters Of The Homeless In NV
There are probably many things that Chase Carson could have done to avoid the downfalls that he encountered and the circumstances in which he now found himself. Certainly, there had been more mistakes than triumphs in his first thirty years of life and it was these misjudgments which seemed to surmount his best efforts to succeed. So it was that he now found himself in the outdoor courtyard of Las Vegas’ newest homeless shelter Against the Odds. It was a Christian-based emergency shelter and rehabilitation center ran by Pastor Nathen Price. The name Against the Odds was meant to convey a message that there is hope despite the despair many feel when they end up on the streets as well as being a tribute to the gambling culture of Sin City. From looking around at the others who stayed there Chase thought that it might be more appropriately named House of the Odds or something along those lines because most of these people seemed quite crazy. In fact, the shelter had only opened about a year ago when Pastor Price was able to repurpose his congregation’s old church building and already those on the street had begun to refer to it as the Odd House. It seemed more suitable.
It wasn’t just the people either. Against the Odds was in the Industrial District of Vegas nestled amongst the freeways in what many locals called the Spaghetti Bowl Junction. This complicated intersection between Interstate 15, Interstate 515, US 93 and US 95 was decided by the politicians of the city to be a tolerable location to house more of the homeless. Only blocks away from the bright lights of the Vegas’ casinos where millions of dollars changes hands daily most tourists would never venture to this area. Keeping the homeless unseen was a big deal with new ordinances and laws being passed constantly. But like the hungry and tired, the pigeons had no problem finding the spot.
Seemingly hundreds of them bobbed to and fro as the evening traffic made its way home on the expressway above. Most of the drivers were oblivious to the life below or otherwise too busy to worry much. The now defunct Christian church was not located under the overpass per se but about as close as possible without violating zoning regulations. So close that if one of the corporate tools driving by above happened to look down too long to adjust the volume of the latest Lady Gaga song on 98.5 KLUC then they might accidentally jump the guardrail and find that they and their car had become a new centerpiece in the courtyard. Chase found it ironic that even though he was in a shelter he was practically still “under the bridge.”
The street rats were in a feeding frenzy at the moment as they fought for pieces of bread tossed to them by one of the center’s long-term residents. Though he could barely relate to other people, Mr. Cooper seemed to find a certain peace with the birds. Mr. Cooper was a wild-eyed black man with dark chafed skin covered by some ragged hand me downs which he must have acquired from the donation room sometime in the past. Today it was a t-shirt displaying the route and sponsors of a 5k road race that had taken place four years ago. His hair was a short uneven fro and the aroma of body odor accompanied him most of the time. A daily shower was a requirement for admission to the shelter but even the most diligent workers got tired of constantly arguing with him to take one and so the result was that there were usually many days in a row where he did not. He also had a type of behavioral disorder and would talk to himself in his own babel language as he paced around the building. Every meal he would be sure to bring some type of food out to the pigeons. This time he had been able to procure a handful of rolls that had otherwise been too stale and hard for his toothless mouth. He had gotten them from the evening’s dinner tray and also grabbed a few more from other’s leftovers as well. Against the Odds tried to serve the best quality and nutritious meals possible, but for some reason donations had been down this summer and the stockpiles left over from last Christmas were nearly depleted. Whether it was the economy or other circumstances, what this effectively meant was that things such as stale rolls and sometimes even slightly moldy ones were becoming a more common occurrence on the plates handed out. The pigeons did not seem to mind this as they were now everywhere in flashes of grey of varying shades with the occasional brown or white bird mixed in for good measure.
Chase glanced around the pavilion and surmised that there were probably a little over a hundred people in the small enclosed area. Rolls of razor wire lined the top of the gates keeping people out and the homeless in after curfew. When serving as a church the yard had been carefully landscaped with buffalo grass and decorative cacti and flowers. The traffic of thousands of vagrants had since eroded the grass away and what was left was just dirt and a few trees which some resourceful bum had turned into a clothesline with damp socks and other clothing hanging from the branches. The other half of the yard consisted of a patio which was equally as sparse with maybe half a dozen round concrete tables and benches, a few trashcans and a couple of rusty coffee tins on the ground for ashtrays. There were some people playing dominoes on one table, some others playing spades with a ragged deck of cards and a few of the older men playing chess off in the corner. Chase had been to jail quite a few times for a long list of misdemeanors and the place had many of the same feelings as the inside of a cell block. The only real differences were that women were allowed in the common areas such as the yard and the lobby and that he could leave if he wanted.
Chase was a decent looking guy of the type that when cleaned up usually never had a problem getting a girl. It was the keeping of one that he had never been successful at thanks mostly to his alcoholism and addictions. Recently he had let himself go and had been focused exclusively on drinking and getting high. His brown hair was about eye-length and a disheveled mess at the moment from the previous days of wandering the streets. He had a dark tan from the Nevada sun which covered most of his 200-pound athletic body. This had come from his years of playing football at the University of Illinois while studying electrical engineering. Chase had never received his graduate degree as an Illini and had dropped out with only a single semester remaining. This had been partly because by that time he was what most medical professionals would call an alcoholic and partly because he simply felt that it was not necessary to continue with classes believing that he would do better going right into the business world. He would never admit that first reason and initially he had been right about that second part. For a few years he had thrived at a nationally known firm which developed integrated circuits. He had been something of a prodigy back home and could not help but think that he was probably one of the smartest homeless people on the street. But he found that things fall apart and after losing that job a year previous he had drove even deeper into the depths of addiction. Eventually he had left the state of Illinois because of the cold weather and lack of employment opportunities deciding that Nevada would be an easier place to get back on his feet. Despite his addictions, and the things he sometimes did to acquire the items of his addiction, Chase was a likeable and charismatic guy. He had dark brown comforting eyes and a smirky smile which seemed to make him look like he was always up to something. He had a few tribal tattoos on his left arm and one on his right that resembled an electronic circuit schematic in honor of his chosen profession as an EE. He had often reconsidered the permanent placement of NAND and NOR gates on his body but it had seemed logical at the time. Reaching into the pocket of his worn jeans Chase pulled out a pack of Camel Lights. It was one of the few things he had left after he had spent the last of his money on cheap pitchers of beer at a dive bar a few miles away. That had happened last night and it had been the end of a month long binge that led to the shelter. He opened the pack and took one of the last three cigarettes and lit it. It was like throwing bread to the pigeons. The exposed pack caused at least ten people to approach him asking if he had a square to spare. Some of the more well off offered to pay fifteen cents or a quarter while another extended a match but he politely refused them. Chase Carson was the kind of guy who would usually give anyone the shirt off his back but he only had two left and didn’t know when he’d be able to find the change for another pack. There was one, however, who made him feel sorry enough for him that he couldn’t refuse.
TO BE CONTINUED> this is an excerpt from a novel attempt, if it catches anyone's attention let me know and I may post some more.