Homeless shelter overwhelmed by demand

Michael Lopardi

Photo: Video by ktnv.com

Homeless shelter overwhelmed by demand

CREATED Aug. 8, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A Las Vegas homeless shelter for women and children said it is overwhelmed by recent demand.

The Shade Tree Shelter at Owens Avenue and Main Street said its beds are full almost every night.

Wafa Malou is one of the lucky ones. She got a bed at the shelter about three months ago before the facility reached its max.

"I wouldn't know where to go if this place didn't take me in," said Malou. "I'm very blessed to be here."

The shelter has 327 beds.

"I live on the third floor and we have a single dorm and two family dorms and they're completely full," said Malou.

Malou said she has seen plenty of new faces recently.

"We have a lot of children in the last couple months," said Malou. "I've seen more children and some babies."

Executive director Marlene Richter said as soon as a bed opens, it fills.

"The numbers are really overwhelming," said Richter.

The director said the shelter usually gets crowded in August but this year, the busy season started two weeks early.

"I think it's a combination of things," said Richter. "Whether it's higher utility bills because of the sudden onset of heat, maybe it's higher rent, maybe people's hours got cut at work."

Numbers from the latest census conducted in 2013 show the homeless population in Clark County dropped to about 7,300 over the last two years; Richter said the number of shelter beds in the region is about 2,900.

"If everyone comes into shelter, and that's actually what we want, we don't have enough beds to help them," said Richter.

Shade Tree will not turn away women who are victims of violence but staff has had to call neighboring shelters to find open beds for other people when , Richter said.

The nearby Salvation Army accepts men and women. Their 120 beds are currently about 75-percent full, said spokeswoman Leslee Rogers.

Richter said a new initiative to place the chronic homeless in permanent housing could help ease the strain at the shelter. 

People in need should check with Shade Tree daily to see if any beds are available.