Amidst the hustle and bustle of Fremont Street in Las Vegas, I found Nathan.
According to Wikipedia, “Fremont Street is … the second most famous street in the Las Vegas Valley after the Las Vegas Strip. (It was) named in honor of explorer John Charles Frémont and located in the heart of the downtown casino corridor.”
Nathan said he’d been homeless for five or six months. He attributed his difficulty in getting a job to being close to 60 years old, a larceny conviction resulting in spending some time locked up, and a difficult economy in Las Vegas.
He said, “If you don’t have a job it’s kind of hard to get a job.”
Nathan told me that government benefits had paid his rent for about three months, but then the assistance ran out. He said he had looked for jobs at several small restaurants, but didn’t land anything.
He said, “They already got a full shift or whatever. They just won’t hire me.”
I asked Nathan where he slept at night. He said, “Sometimes I don’t sleep anywhere, but at times I … find a little hole and go to sleep.” He wasn’t sure where he would sleep that coming night.
I was curious about what Nathan had to say about living on the streets of what is arguably America’s most well known city.
He said, “I try to hustle to eat, and hope I get enough to get a motel room or whatever.”
I asked Nathan if he stayed at shelters in Las Vegas. He said he had, but no more. “I had a crime that happened 20 years or so ago and they looked on the computer, then all of a sudden they tell me I can’t stay there no more, and I’m not allowed on their property.”
I asked Nathan what he would like people to know about him and his experiences of being homeless in Las Vegas.
He said, “It would be a blessing if they could pitch in and help in some form and some kind of way.”
Nathan responded quickly when I asked him if he had one wish what it would be. He said he’d like , “Somewhere to sleep tonight and something good to eat.”
As I left Nathan, I was troubled. I’d given him a fast food gift card, and chatted and prayed with him. But I didn’t know him.
What troubles had Nathan faced that had resulted in him panhandling on a late Saturday afternoon on Fremont Street? What were his dreams and fears? Where were his mom and dad? Had he ever been married? Did he have children? These were questions I felt that only spending a few minutes with Nathan I had no right to ask.
How long would Nathan-how long can anyone-be homeless and hungry in Las Vegas before sinking down into an even deeper homeless quagmire?
It’s easy to provide all the cliched answers and say, “Well, if that was me … ” Well, It’s not you. It’s Nathan. Before you judge him, walk a mile in his shoes, and say a prayer for him as well!