Fifty homeless people died in Las Vegas during 2011. When the die, they often don’t get a funeral, and often don’t have much family around to take care of their final wishes. The coroner is the one who handles the body, conducts an autopsy, and prepares for burial.
That’s where Linda Lera-Randle El comes in. She’s a homeless advocate and founder of Straight from the Streets, a group that helps homeless people find aid.
Lera-Randle El recently held a vigil for those 50 men and women who died this past year. The experience, she says, is therapeutic, but very sad for those who attend. It’s appropriate to say goodbye, she says.
“It becomes a testimony for a lot of them,” she says for the homeless and ex-homeless people who attended. “You have to be able to make some lightness in the middle of it…it’s very, very sad to look at that list of names.”
There are an estimated 15,000 homeless people in Nevada, and resources to help them are dwindling due to the recession, Lera-Randle El says. Many are homeless because they were evicted after long hospitals stays away from home, or because their homes were foreclosed upon, she says.
“Las Vegas never, ever reached where it should have been in the area of social services,” she says.
“You have to take every person an assess them” in order to know how to help them, she says of how her organization treats its clients. “If they don’t have a place to go, there’s crisis.”