Tag Archives: Las Vegas Catholic Worker

10 Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar (Whether You’re On or Off the Road)

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1 Us Bank NoteThe Man is always amazed when I come out of the supermarket and tell him how little I paid for the food in the cart. I get a big kick out of cooking healthy and delicious meals on the cheap. The Man said I should share my money saving ways with my readers, so today I present 10 tips on stretching your food dollar, whether you live in a van, RV, apartment, or house.

#1 Don’t waste food. Don’t buy something if you’re not dedicated to eating it. If you buy food, eat it, even if you don’t particularly like it. Being adventurous is great, but throwing away food is a waste of money.

Often, not wasting food requires planning. You have to eat fresh food before it spoils, which can be tricky if an item is distressed or if you’re on the road and have only a cooler or no refrigeration at all. Before I plan a meal, I take stock of what fresh food I have and what’s likely to go bad in the next day or two. I cook what I’m most in danger of losing.

#2 Be creative with what you can buy cheaply. One time I encountered whole pinto beans marked down to less than 30 cents a can. I don’t particularly like pinto beans with rice or whole pinto beans on burritos, so I turned the beans into my version of refried beans. They were delicious!

If you find something on super sale, think of all the different ways you can consume the item, especially if you have to use it up fast. Maybe you don’t want to eat six cartons of plain yogurt, but maybe you can eat some with berries and crunchy cereal, use another portion in your pancake recipe, and throw the rest in the blender with other ingredients to make smoothies.

#3 Eat what’s cheap, not necessarily what you’re in the mood for. I finally had an oven, so I really wanted to bake a pizza at home. I picked out a jar of pizza sauce and thought about toppings. I knew I had a can of olives (bought for 50 cents at a scratch and dent store) in the cupboard, so I tossed a can of mushrooms into my cart, and figured I could round things out with half a chopped onion. Then I found the store’s cart of reduced canned goods. As I rooted through I found a can of pasta sauce marked 49 cents that I thought would work just as well as something labeled “pizza sauce” (I was right—it worked great) and a can of asparagus spears for 79 cents which became the delicious splurge that made the pizza extra special.

The lesson here is that if I’d had my heart set on artichoke hearts for the pizza, I would have either spent a lot more money, or I would have felt disappointed and lamented my life of poverty. Instead, I got a good deal on something delicious. Also? If I hadn’t found the asparagus spears, the pizza as I originally envisioned it would have still been mighty tasty.

Booth, branding, business#4 Watch for sales.  Check out weekly sales online before you shop or read the sale flyer at the front of the store. You can also just pay attention to prices while you shop. If you see a bargain on something you would use anyway, stock up.

#5 Buy store brands. Store brands typically cost less than name brands and taste as good. (Some people may taste a difference between name brand items and store brand items. I typically do not, except for ‘Nilla Wafers. I don’t know what it is, but ‘Nilla Wafers taste markedly better than any generic vanilla wafer I’ve ever tried.)

#6 Remember that convenience foods typically cost more. As much as possible, cook from scratch. How much time are you really saving by using a cornbread mix or precooked rice? And what do you have more of, time or money? One of the reasons most of us live on the road is so we can have lots of free time. Often more free time means less money. When it comes to cooking, you can often use your free time to save money. If you’re living in a sticks-and-bricks, maybe saving money will mean you have to work less or you can get on the road sooner, if that’s what you’re hoping for.

#7 Don’t eat more than you need to. I frequently make the costly decision to eat when I’m not really hungry. I often overeat because food is delicious and comforting. However, eating reasonable portions means you’re getting more meals for the money you spent on food.

#8 If you’re in a town with a senior center, check into the lunch program for seniors. Even small towns out West offer these lunches. They usually cost $2 to $3 for a complete meal. Age requirements to qualify for the inexpensive meal vary, but I’ve heard of people as young as 50 being considered “seniors” and eligible for the lunches. Younger people are considered “guests,” and their cost per meal is usually around $7

I’m still too young to eat cheap senior lunches, so I’ve never participated. From what I’ve heard, they can often be a good place for socializing and meeting people. Musicians often perform at one senior lunch program I know of in a small southern New Mexico town. Another new program in a small southern Arizona town is promising Bingo.

#9 Investigate free meal options. Maybe the town you’re in has a Food Not Bombs chapter that serves free vegan food in the park. Maybe there’s a Catholic Worker group that serves free meals like in Las Vegas, NV.  Call churches, Catholic Worker Houses, infoshops, radical bookstores, food banks, social service offices, and homeless shelters and outreach programs and ask how to get free meals where you are.

Assorted-color Box Lot on Rack#10 Sign up for supermarket loyalty cards to get discounts, coupons, and sale prices. Supermarkets owned by the same parent company have different names in different parts of the country, but one discount card is good at all of them. I typically shop at stores owned by Kroger, and I save money by using the loyalty card.

If you don’t want a loyalty card, ask the cashier if s/he has a loyalty card s/he can scan for you so you get the sale prices. There was a time in my life when I did not have the ability to keep track of a supermarket loyalty card, so I often asked the cashier if s/he had a card to use for me. I was seldom told no.

I hope these tips have helped you think about ways to stretch your food dollar according to your own personal needs and desires. Want more money saving tips? I’ll offer up 10 More Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar next Wednesday.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/1-us-bank-note-47344/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/booth-branding-business-buy-264636/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-color-box-lot-on-rack-811101/.

Feeding People in Las Vegas

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My friends are part of the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community, although neither of them identify as Catholic. I think it’s unusual to be a non-Catholic Catholic Worker, but I can’t say I’ve surveyed any other Catholic Workers about their beliefs or religious affiliations.

One of the Catholic Worker activities my friends participate in is serving food to hungry people. (My friends  also do peace work focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons development, production, and testing. In addition, they also cook and serve with Food Not Bombs once or twice a month.)

When I mention I’m heading to Las Vegas to visit friends, the person I’m speaking with tends to get a knowing look, all wink wink nudge nudge. People say things to me like Have fun! or Be careful. Although I do have fun with my friends, I try to explain to people that my trips to Vegas are not what they’re thinking. My first visits to Vegas, the three nights I spent there with Sweet L and Mr. Carolina, eating and drinking out of trash can and wondering at the sights of the Strip, those night were maybe a little closer to what people think Las Vegas is about. (Read about those nights in the first part of this post: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/.) But since I’ve been visiting The Poet and The Activist, my visits to Las Vegas have not involved one foot touching the Strip or casino property.

The Activist participates in the Catholic Worker food service several times a week. The Poet serves food and helps with washing dishes once a week. Whenever I’m visiting, I volunteer with one or both of them.

Las Vegas Catholic Work house surrounded by a circle of people holding hands.

This photo shows the Las Vegas Catholic Worker house. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The serving of food starts at 6:30 in the morning. I’m not usually out and about so early, but other people are accustomed to it. When we arrive at the Catholic Worker House to meet up with the other volunteers, the food is cooked and people are bustling around, loading everything on the trailer to transport it to the empty lot where the food is served. People have been in the kitchen since 4am, preparing the meal.

The kitchen is warm when we walk in, always a contrast with coolness of the desert morning,but especially pronounced in early December. The people inside are warm too, although they must be wondering who I am and if I’ll be back. I’m sure they see many volunteers who help once to fulfill some sort of obligation and never return. In any case, people say hello to me, tell me their names, shake my hand. If The Poet or The Activist is standing next to me, I’m introduced as a friend.

When we arrive, people are typically sitting around a table in the next room, finishing their prayer meeting. I usually hear some portion of the Lord’s Prayer drift from the room. While the prayer meeting is wrapping up, other people are carrying industrial-size metal pots outside to load them on the trailer which an SUV will pull to the site of the serving.

After all the food and tea and paper bowls and plastic utensils and folding tables and condiments and cups are loaded and the prayer group has dispersed, all the volunteers circle around the wooden counter in the middle of the kitchen to join hands and pray together. I hold the hands of the people on either side of me and bow my head respectfully, but I don’t pray. Other folks recite aloud a prayer, often the following one by Samuel F. Pugh:

O God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work,
help me to remember the jobless;
When I have a home,
help me to remember those who have no home at all;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer,
And remembering,
help me to destroy my complacency;
bestir my compassion,
and be concerned enough to help;
By word and deed,
those who cry out for what we take for granted.
Amen.

The food is served in a vacant lot at G & McWilliams Streets , far enough away from the Catholic Worker house so it makes sense to go in a car. I ride with The Activist (and The Poet too, if it’s Saturday). We always arrive a few minutes before the SUV and trailer.

When we arrive, the hungry people are lined up and waiting. Most people would probably say those people standing in line are homeless. I’m sure some of them are homeless. Maybe even a majority of them live on the streets, but I’m not willing to lump the whole bunch into one category. I know every single one of those people has a unique life, an individual story that’s brought each of them to a vacant lot in Las Vegas, NV on any particular morning.

The vast majority waiting to eat are men. Out of a couple hundred people there to eat, I’d be surprised to see more than five women. Where are all the poor, hungry, and/or homeless women? I feel confident they are somewhere in Las Vegas. I hope they are getting their needs met by some other organization(s).

When the trailer arrives, volunteers scurry to set up. Two tables are unfolded, condiments and utensils set out on them. Plastic milk crates are placed at the head of each line, and giant pots of steaming food are set on top of them. Another table is set up with the day’s side dish and is staffed by two volunteers. Someone else prepares to distribute jalapeño peppers from a large plastic tub to folks who want to spice up their food.

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg – mural outside the Catholic Worker Houses – painted by Q, photo by Tami Yaron. Image from http://lvcw.org/

The Catholic Worker group also provides warm, damp towels to the folks they serve. I’ve never seen another group provide this service. I think it’s a great idea. A volunteer distributes the warm towels from a 5-gallon bucket. Folks use the towels to wash their face and/or hands, then deposit the used ones in a second bucket. The dirty towels are taken back tot he Catholic Worker house where they are laundered for reuse.

When I volunteer, I usually help hand out bread. (One time I helped hand out the hot main dish.) After putting on gloves, The Activist or The Poet and I take bread out of a 5-gallon bucket and set a variety of choices on the inside of one of the lids, which we use as a tray. The available bread can vary, but I’ve seen it include bagels, sliced wheat bread, hamburger buns, raisin bread, and chunks of baguettes.

I try to be really friendly to people who come up for bread. Good morning! I’ll say with a big smile. Can I get you some bread?

Some people know exactly what they want and how many slices. Others seem confused by the choices. Some seem grateful for whatever they’re handed. I do my best to give folks the kind of bread they want, then sincerely say, Have a nice day! before they leave. I like to think a friendly face and voice and word are as important as the food, but maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel good.

I wonder what the other people in that vacant lot see when they look at me. Do they assume I have a house to return to? Do they think I’m financially secure? Do I seem comfortable and complacent? Do they realize I’m closer economically to the the people there to eat than to the other people serving? Does anyone look at me and imagine I once lived on the streets, that I’m only one step out of my van away from homeless again? But for the grace of the Universe (or God or the Higher Power or Goddess or whatever one chooses to call it), I’d be lined up to receive food instead of serving it.

The Food I Ate (Las Vegas Edition)

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I love to eat, but I hate to cook. So I love to eat in restaurants, but I hate to spend a lot of money. You see my dilemma.

I did eat some really good food in Las Vegas, although I didn’t go to any upscale restaurants. (In my whole life, I haven’t eaten in upscale restaurants more than a few times.)

My first night in town, my hosts, The Poet and her husband the Activist, invited me to join their community dinner. Organizers from the Las Vegas Catholic Worker community shared their delicious meal of spicy black beans and rice with me. (Baked chicken was on the table too, but I stuck with the vegetarian option.) I enjoyed eating a tasty meal with nice people.

The next morning my hosts and I awoke early to help the Catholic Worker group serve breakfast to hungry homeless and poor folks. I wasn’t hungry for toast before we left the house, and I didn’t care to try the breakfast dish (rice and beans with chorizo) being served. After the meal, we returned to my friends’ house; then I went to a credit union where I deposited my last paycheck. From there I stumbled upon the Las Vegas Goodwill Clearance Center and got distracted.

I was supposed to meet The Poet and The Activist at 11:25 so I could ride with them to the Catholic Worker House to help serve (then eat!) lunch. I shopped at the Goodwill Clearance Center until the last possible moment, then was slowed down by the one-way streets in West Las Vegas. By the time I got to my friends’ house, it was 11:15, I was super hungry, and their car wasn’t in the driveway. I was afraid I’d missed them (and lunch!) and texted The Poet in a panic. She texted right back to say they were on the way to pick me up. Sigh of relief!

When we got to the Catholic Worker House, I saw the lunch crew was as efficient as the breakfast crew. It was taco day, and everything was prepped and ready to go. The taco shells were filled with meat at one end of the line. A volunteer would serve the tacos while the person next to him offered beans. Someone else spooned out guacamole. The Activist was next, offering lettuce and tomatoes. I stood to his right. My job was to serve shredded cheese. The young man by my side passed out tortilla chips, and The Poet was at the end of the line dishing out salsa.

According to the Las Vegas Catholic Worker website, every Wednesday is

Hospitality Day, [and they] invite 20 homeless men home for showers, to wash clothes, & to have a great lunch.….

(On the day I was there, a couple of women lined up with the men.)

The serving went fast; then the servers were welcome to make themselves a plate. I made mine taco salad style with corn chips, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and a generous dollop of guacamole. I joined The Poet and The Activist at the umbrella shaded table on the backyard patio. It was a great lunch! As we were relaxing after our meal, one of the cooks brought us freshly baked cookies, and we didn’t even have to wash the dishes!

On the third day of my visit, we were up early again to serve breakfast, this time macaroni and cheese. I served bread alone while The Poet handed out jalapeños. Back at the Catholic Worker house, we helped with dish washing. The Poet rinsed while I gave the pots and pans a quick dip in the sanitizing water. The man doing the washing was quick and thorough, and we were out of there in no time.

Next on the day’s itinerary was the 11am peace vigil in front of the Lloyd George Federal Courthouse at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. We arrived early, so The Activist suggested we grab doughnuts at the O Face doughnut shop a couple of blocks away. Although I just referred to O Face as a doughnut shop, it is more like a doughnut boutique.

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I took this photo of the door to the O Face Doughnut Shop. Can you see my reflection in the glass?

First of all, you don’t pick your doughnuts by looking at racks with rows and rows of doughnuts of each variety. Oh no. The doughnuts here are artfully displayed, in small bunches. Customers see only one sample of each variety.

The doughnuts are lovely to behold. Love-a-lee! Each doughnut is good looking. Each doughnut looks delicious. Each doughnut appears to be begging to be eaten. These factors make choosing a doughnut difficult.

Some doughnuts are rings and easier to eat by hand. These are called “in hand” doughnuts. Others doughnuts have fillings that are made in-house and are easier to eat with utensils. These are called “fork and knife” doughnuts and are more expensive than “in hand” doughnuts.

I ended up picking out a banana-flavored sort of cake doughnut/fritter hybrid with dark chocolate frosting. SO GOOD! I’m not even a huge fan of bananas, but for some reason that doughnut was calling to me; I was not disappointed. The fried doughnut was the perfect degree of greasy. The banana-ness was from real bananas, as far as I could tell, not from some artificial banana flavor, and the dark chocolate frosting was sweet perfection. This was a seriously good doughnut.

My friends got vegan doughnuts. When we all tried bites of each other’s doughnuts, I can’t say I was too excited about theirs. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of traditional doughnuts. Give me the cake kind, or I’ll usually just pass. The vegan doughnuts were even more dough-y than regular doughnuts, and I thought they tasted quite like bread. However, since I’ve never been vegan, I don’t really know what a good vegan doughnut tastes like. Maybe vegans would really appreciate and enjoy the O Face vegan doughnuts. After all, my friends voiced no complaints.

O Face doughnut shop is small, but does have limited seating. But my friends and I didn’t eat inside. We took our doughnuts outside and ate them standing on the sidewalk right near the door.

The O Face doughnut I scarfed down was probably the best doughnut I’ve had in my entire middle-age life.

After the peace vigil, The Activist and I walked down to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, home of The History Channel program Pawn Stars. About an hour later when we met The Poet at The Beat Coffeehouse and Records, where she had been writing while waiting for us, we were ready for lunch.

In thanks for their hospitality, I’d offered to treat The Poet and The Activist to lunch. The Poet immediately suggested an East Indian restaurant they really like called Mount Everest. She said out of the several East Indian restaurants in Las Vegas they’d tried, this was their favorite.

To be fair, I am not an expert on Indian food. But I have eaten at Indian restaurants in San Francisco and New Orleans and Philadelphia and Penang, Malaysia and probably some other places I don’t remember, so I’m not a complete novice either. The food I ate at Mount Everest was the best Indian food I have ever eaten.

We had the lunch buffet, and almost everything I tried was so good. The rice was perfectly cooked, and all of the sauces were hot and delicious. I loved the potato and squash dish, but I thought the samosas were a bit tough. They were barely warm; I think a huge batch had been made for the lunch rush and had maybe been sitting around too long. The naan, delivered promptly to our table, was fresh, hot, and tasty.

All of the employees we encountered were smiling and friendly, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Mount Everest. I’ll eat there again, next time I’m in Vegas, if I can spare the cost of the buffet.

On Friday morning, The Activist drove us 45 miles north of town to the Temple of Goddess Spirituality. After we visited to Goddess Temple, we stopped at the Desert National Wildlife Range, where we walked around for a while on well-maintained desert trails. Luckily, it was a cool and overcast day, so walking in the desert was unusually pleasant.

We were all hungry by the time we got back to Vegas, so The Poet suggested we eat breakfast at The Omelet House on Charleston Blvd. We arrived midmorning and were seated immediately.

The first thing I noticed about the place was the weird decor. The dark walls and heavy furniture gave the place a fancy cabin feel, but there were also lots of breakable knick-knacks scattered about. I felt as if I were eating in the living room of some old lady’s cabin/ski lodge. I wondered how often those knick-knacks are cleaned and definitely saw dust on an artificial plant.

The table my friends and I were led to was tucked in a corner. I sat across from The Poet, and The Activist sat to her right. A wooden knick-knack display about two feet tall with three shelves and a drawer stretching across the bottom was hung on the wall to my right. After we placed our orders, we looked closely at the items displayed next to us. They were kitchy, breakable salt and pepper shakers. (Why, oh, why did I not take a photo of this monstrosity?) I was quite intrigued with the drawer and slid it open to inspect its contents. Empty! I decided I would leave little notes for the next curious diner who inspected the drawer. The Poet and I wrote some words on little slips of paper and tucked them away to be found by future guests.

The menu offered many options including omelets and pancakes and sandwiches.

I had the Health Nut omelet (so named, perhaps, because it includes lots of veggies) with spuds and pumpkin bread. The pumpkin bread, delivered before the entrée, was served warm with butter on the side. The omelet was made with three eggs, although a six egg omelet was also an option. The spuds were thinly sliced, deep fried potatoes. They were essentially potato chips prepared in small batches. I was surprised and delighted by them. Everything on my plate was delicious.

That omelet was my last big meal in Vegas. On Saturday morning, I was back on the road and back on a budget, eating cheap burritos at Del Taco and Dairy Queen and longing for my next chance to indulge.

 

The Other Las Vegas

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I’d been to Las Vegas one time before.

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It had been a three night whirlwind dirty kid tour of eating strawberry shortcake and drinking fine tequila we pulled from trash cans, exploring the Hard Rock Hotel while high on the finest of hallucinogens, and napping in a park during the daylight because we’d been awake all night. We’d been kicked out of Caesars Palace when Sweet L accidentally hit a slot machine with his knee and a panel popped open, exposing wires and lights. We’d apparently been banned for life from the Las Vegas Margaritaville location after we’d tried to take a shortcut through a barricaded area in the wee hours of the morning. We strolled The Strip for hours, marveling at the excess of the casinos, watching the water shows performed by the Fountains of Bellagio, pressing in with the crowd to see pirates battle sirens in the cove in front of Treasure Island.

We even gambled one night. Mr. Carolina asked me for a dollar, and I gave him one from my meager stash. He put the bill in a slot machine, and he and I took turns pushing buttons (he knew what he was doing, but I had no clue), until we were up $5. I insisted we cash out, while he stared at me incredulously. He knew we’d never win big if we didn’t play big, but I wanted the five bucks to buy gas for the van.

We mostly saw rich people, or at least people rich enough to take a holiday in Las Vegas. In addition to the rich people, we saw the workers in hotels and casinos and gift shops who served the tourists.

We also saw locals putting the hustle on visitors. We saw people dressed up in costumes (superheros, Muppets, Disney characters) hoping to have their photos taken with tourists in exchange for a tip. (For an interesting discussion of these folks in costume, see http://www.vegassolo.com/vegas-costumed-panhandlers/.) We saw panhandlers (especially on the bridges used to cross from one casino to another while bypassing vehicular traffic) asking tourists for spare change. At one point, I was carrying around a white takeout box we had pulled from the trash, and a local woman asked me for my leftovers! I thought that was funny and weird, because in no way did we look (or smell) like Las Vegas tourists. I told her she could have the food, but she changed her mind when I told her it had recently been in a garbage can.

But mostly we saw tourists with money. We were on The Strip, after all, and The Strip is a prime hangout location for tourists with money.

Almost exactly three years later, I found myself back in the city, but this time I got to see the other Las Vegas.

I was visiting my friend The Poet and her husband (who is now my friend too) The Activist. They’d moved to West Las Vegas in March, and now it was October.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Las_Vegas,

West Las Vegas is an historic neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. This 3.5 sq mi (9.1 km2) area is located northwest of the Las Vegas Strip and the “Spaghetti Bowl” interchange of I-15 and US 95. It is also known as Historic West Las Vegas and more simply, the Westside.[1] The area is roughly bounded by Carey Avenue, Bonanza Road, I-15 and Rancho Drive.[2][3]

(I highly recommend this Wikipedia article, as it explains a lot about the history of segregation in Las Vegas.)

The Poet and The Activist are involved with Nevada Desert Experience. According to the group’s website (http://www.nevadadesertexperience.org/history/history.htm),

In the 20th century, the Western Shoshone Nation’s homelands began to suffer from nuclear weapons testing conducted by the U.S.A. & the U.K. A few peacemakers came out in the 1950s to challenge the nuclear testing, and a few more in the 1970s. People of faith gathered for the first “Lenten Desert Experience” at the Nevada Test Site in 1982 to witness against ongoing nuclear violence. Soon the resisters were calling their movement “Nevada Desert Experience” (NDE). The name also refers to an organized activist group which continues to conduct spiritually-based events near the Nevada National Security Site (the NNSS/NTS) in support of peace and nuclear abolition. NDE celebrates the power of God’s creation, analyzes the tragedy of the nuclear weapons industry, and calls for ending the destruction and repairing the damage.

The Poet and The Activist live in a cute little house that includes the NDE office. Their place is in a compound with two other houses where activists live. Each house is painted a lovely bright color, and they all face a tranquil courtyard. My friends have a guest room, where I stayed during my visit.

The Poet and The Activist also work with the Las Vegas Catholic Worker folks, although neither identify as Catholic. They are both definitely workers, arriving at the Catholic Worker house (500 West Van Buren Avenue) around six o’clock several mornings each week to meet the folks they work with to serve a 6:30 breakfast to a couple hundred poor/homeless/hungry people who gather in an empty lot at G & McWilliams Streets.

I got up early too on two mornings during my visit and helped serve breakfast.

The breakfast crew is a well-organized bunch. When we arrived at the Catholic Worker house a little after 6am, folks were gathered in the common room off of the kitchen for their morning prayer group. Breakfast was already cooked, and food and equipment were ready to be loaded on a trailer for the trip of several blocks to the lot where the morning meal is served Wednesday through Saturday. Before we left, the dozen or so of us there joined hands for another prayer. (I’m not one to pray much, so I just bowed my head politely and kept all snarky comments to myself.)

Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg – mural outside the Catholic Worker Houses – painted by Q (image from Las Vegas Catholic Worker website–http://www.lvcw.org/)

When we arrived at the site of the meal, I was surprised by two things.

#1 There were a lot of people there. I didn’t try to count, but I estimated there were 200 people. The Las Vegas Catholic Worker website (http://www.lvcw.org/) confirmed my estimate. I knew Las Vegas is a major city (with a 2013 population of approximately 603,500, according to https://www.google.com/search?q=population+of+las+vegas+nv&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8), but I was surprised to see so many people in need in one place.  Based on my prior Las Vegas experience, I would have said the city didn’t have a large homeless/poor population. I would have been wrong about that. (I tried to find an estimate of the number of homeless people in Las Vegas. I couldn’t find statistics pertaining specifically to the city, but according to the Nevada Homeless Alliance 2015 homeless census, 34,397 individuals experience homelessness in southern Nevada. To learn more about the Nevada Homeless Alliance, go to http://nevadahomelessalliance.org/.)

#2 All of the people waiting for breakfast were lined up and waiting for the food to arrive. They’d obviously done this before. There were six or eight lines of people. When the food arrived, the folks serving the food set up at the front of each line and started dishing out breakfast.

I was not surprised to see that most of the people waiting for breakfast were men. In most of my experiences with services for poor/homeless people and being on the streets, men typically outnumber women (with the possible exception of clients at food pantries). I’d say out of the approximately 200 people there to eat breakfast, maybe 10 were women.

On my first morning serving, I helped The Poet hand out bread. On the second morning, I served bread alone while The Poet distributed jalapeños. On both mornings, everyone who came up to get bread was polite and friendly. I was polite and friendly myself and did my best to greet everyone with a smile and some bubbly happiness.

After seeing so many homeless people gathered for breakfast, I was outraged by the number of obviously abandoned houses throughout West Las Vegas. I was totally flabbergasted when my friends and I went downtown, and I saw abandoned hotels.

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El Cid Hotel was just one of the obviously abandoned and fenced off hotels I saw in downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is not lacking space to house folks experiencing homelessness. Las Vegas has plenty of space to house people. The city could buy some of the abandoned hotels and provide housing to several hundred individuals. And if the city bought up all the abandoned houses it could provided them to families dealing with homelessness.

I was outraged and sputtering while standing in front of El Cid, taking photos and outlining how Las Vegas could alleviate homelessness. My friends just shook their heads and said the city was unlikely to do any such thing.