Las Vegas marking parking places for homeless encampment

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People prepare places to sleep in area marked by painted boxes on the ground of a parking lot at a makeshift camp for the homeless Monday, March 30, 2020, in Las Vegas. Officials opened part of a parking lot as a makeshift homeless shelter after a local shelter closed when a man staying there tested positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS – Homeless people in Las Vegas have been directed to sleep in rectangles painted on the pavement in a makeshift parking lot camp as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, a move that is stirring outrage by some on social media.

Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro suggested in a post on Twitter that the city's homeless should be temporarily placed in empty hotel rooms.

Added actress Alyssa Milano in a tweet: “In Las Vegas, homeless people are sleeping on concrete floor of a parking lot —six feet apart—while all the hotel rooms are empty."

The white-lined patches of pavement were created by officials in the city known for its hospitality after a homeless shelter closed when a man staying there tested positive for the coronavirus.

City officials said they decided to temporarily place the homeless in a parking lot of a multi-use facility rather than inside buildings that include a stadium, a theater, exhibit space and meeting rooms, because officials planned to reserve them for potential hospital overflow space if needed.

City spokesman Jace Radke said Tuesday that the open-air shelter was an “emergency situation” and the lot was chosen because the city already owned the property.

“The marked squares are to help meet social distancing requirements. We’ll continue to provide this temporary respite, while practicing necessary social distancing, for anyone who is suffering from homelessness," Radke said in an email.

The makeshift shelters come as officials in other states look to protect homeless people. In California, which has the nation's largest homeless population, Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged thousands of hotel rooms to help homeless people during the pandemic.