We have about 600 miles of flood channels in the whole Las Vegas valley. Two or three of the tunnels go right beneath the strip. A few go beneath the downtown area, and then the rest are just everywhere.
You can see the neon lights, the 40 story tall casinos, the polished lobbies. And then right beneath that is this dark and gray world where people are just trying to survive. I go to the tunnels maybe two or three times a month, just to check on people. I started a community project called Shine A Light to try to do what I can to help the people who are living down there.
You ready to see who’s around? Let’s do it. Creepy.
It’s a stuffed animal wrapped in caution tape. That’s the kind of thing if you’re by yourself late at night walking and you see it, it can give you the chills. Craig, is that you?
Can you give us a quick tour of your camp? Just describe– Well, I just made this up. I locked this down to make sure the wind and air can come through, a pretty decent amount of air. You can lower this if you need to and shut it?
It’s cold. The floor is cold. The floor is cold enough to keep the food preserved a little?
You found this in a trashcan? Yeah, dumpster diving. Craig is one of the masters of dumpster diving. Even when he had an apartment, he would dumpster dive and furnish it with stuff he found.
I wouldn’t want to be homeless anywhere else, I would think. Out of sight, out of mind here, in Vegas. You’re left alone.
You have some privacy, and strangely, a sense of security down here. How are you doing? OK. Yeah? How are you?
Good. Good to see you. You’ve lived down here off and on for how long? Oh, my god.
Since 2004. Wow. Take me back to that moment. You lived, white picket fence, family, kids? I came down here, and I expected it to be dirtier, more humidity– raw sewage going through or something. Right.
And I saw how it was. And I was like, wow. That’s not as bad as I thought. Whatever my man chooses or whatever, that’s what I want too.
If he wants to live down here, then I’ll live down here with him. Can you give us a little tour? This is one of the more elaborate camps, you’ll see down here.
The bed is elevated on these shopping carts. That’s my refrigerator. The cooler? I keep the food, yeah, and water. Aren’t those the coin cups from the casinos? You use that as a bathroom?
That’s our bathroom, our toilet. People get so comfortable living down here with their couch, and their milk crate, and their clothes hung up. And I think sometimes, they almost forget that they’re living in a flood channel.
It says, aghast, the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is. I think it’s a line from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” that a guy named Ricky wrote on the wall. He’s a bit of a poet, a rough guy, tough guy. But he also has a more sensitive side.
Yeah, this is a roulette table. Wow. You use it just as a curtain?
Yeah. Wow. You have a canopy, huh?
Yeah. This keeps you warm. Oh, you can pull it down over? Yeah. Is that a thin mattress or a few blankets? Those are two McDonald’s crates.
That they unload their supplies with? Yeah, and they didn’t get back. So what is it about the tunnels that attracts you to it? For one thing, it’s free rent. I know my future, and I’m past 50 years old. I have extensive prison background.
And I know I won’t get no work, no decent work around here. So what? You feel you don’t have any future, so you just don’t mind staying down here? Unless you could think of a better future than I could think of. And what I’ve discovered is it’s very tough to get someone to come out literally into the light and to face the issues that made them become homeless in the first place and to try to change and turn that around and give up the freedom.
The people down here have been really good to me as far as welcoming me into their homes, sharing their stories with me. The thought part of helping just one of them or brightening one of their days, those are the kind of things that keep me going. In another episode of “Seeker Stories,” find out how a controversial medical procedure is saving lives. So we process stool from healthy donors and send it out to hospitals all over the country. The population that we’re treating this way, this is their last resort. They’ve been sick for a minimum of six months.