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Editorial: Shelter is our latest blessing

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By The Staff

For many, the approach of winter means weatherizing the home or stocking up on heating fuel to burn in the cold nights ahead. For others, it means finding a way to survive — and that’s where the generosity of our community comes into play.

Las Vegas has a lot of poor people. Demographic data show that about a quarter of our residents live in poverty. For many, such circumstances are offset by the support of family, so even if they can’t afford a home of their own, somebody takes them in. Others, however, aren’t so lucky and, for various reasons, end up living on the streets.

It’s hard to know just how many homeless people there are in Las Vegas, but we know they are out there. They can be seen during the day then, at night, they disappear into vacant buildings or make-shift shelters or any place that will keep them warm, safe and dry. It’s a tough life, and one that many can’t avoid.

Here in Las Vegas, they are not forgotten. A little more than a year ago, several concerned citizens decided that the community needed to have a cold-weather shelter for homeless and transient people, especially since the old Samaritan House shelter closed. Several members of First Presbyterian Church, among others, took a leadership role in the effort and opened church doors for a shelter.

Now, thanks to the generosity of Vince and Vicki Howell, a more suitable facility is being provided near on Seventh Street just north of Mills Avenue. The Howells have owned the building for years — they bought the property when Vince Howell owned the McDonald’s restaurant next door — and, despite its good business location, have offered it up to the cause. They are providing the facility rent-free for a year as a shelter for the homeless.

Of course, this isn’t the first act of generosity for this couple. When Vince Howell owned and operated McDonald’s, his support for community endeavors was nearly constant. McDonald’s, it seemed, contributed to just about every cause in town. We even remember Howell providing refrigerator space at his restaurant for storing Thanksgiving turkeys to be given away.

Of course, they are among the many who reach out to care for the less fortunate in our town. An ecumenical collection of people gather twice a week at First United Methodist Church to feed the community with an afternoon meal every Tuesday — with several volunteers coming from United World College — and at a lunch “soup kitchen” at noon every Thursday. Plus, there are people such as Helen Rivera of El Sombrero restaurant at Eighth and Mills, who feeds hundreds of people for free every Thanksgiving. What a great way to show one’s love and concern for the community.

Yes, yes, we know Las Vegas has its problems. You see it all too frequently on the front page of this newspaper. And yet, as we struggle against crime and violence, dirty politics and shady deal-making, and all the other deep-seated problems, let’s not forget the wonderful people who make this town a community. Let’s remember all the good that goes on — the result of a lot of worthy effort.