Shine a Light
“May the Good Lord shine a light on you,
Make every song your favorite tune.
May the Good Lord shine a light on you,
Warm like the evening sun.”
“Shine a Light”
The Rolling Stones
Shine a Light is a Freedom House Sober Living program that helps the hundreds of men, women and children who live in the underground flood channels of Las Vegas. The program prides itself on going into the depths of the storm-drain system and engaging this underserved, hidden population on a personal level.
Shine a Light offers housing, drug counseling, case management, job training and a GED program. True to its roots, it also doles out much-needed supplies, including bottled water, food, socks, underwear, flashlights, headlamps and AA and AAA batteries. (SAL accepts financial and material donations. Donated items must be new or gently used.)
Matthew O’Brien- Author of the book Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. He founded Shine a Light in 2009 as a grassroots community project. A teacher, journalist and social worker, Matt splits his time between Las Vegas and San Salvador.
Paul Vautrinot- The point person for Shine a Light and the lead program case manager of Freedom House. A recovering addict, he lived in the tunnels for three years. Paul, a 2005 graduate of the Las Vegas Academy, is married to a woman he met in recovery and they have one son, Jaxon. He also has a stepson named Kai.
Jeffrey Iverson- Chief executive officer of Freedom House, which he founded in 2010. He completed drug court in ’07 and has remained sober since. A native Las Vegan, Jeff graduated from Las Vegas High in 1992 and is a devoted father to two young boys, Caden and Dylan. Dedicated to giving back to the community, he has served on various boards, including HOPE for Prisoners and HELP of Southern Nevada, and is general manager of Presidential Limousine.
“Shine a Light was a godsend. If not for them I really believe that I would not be alive today. They brought me back from a dark and traumatic time in my life, made me believe in myself again and gave me the courage to climb out of my own tunnel and be a productive member of society. They are truly a light shining down on others!”—Billy, in the drains from 2004-2016
“Sitting near the tunnels, looking for used cigarette butts, watching all the happy tourists. Making my way to the restroom at Caesars Palace, where my mother once worked as a cocktail waitress. Hungry. Looking down at my dirty feet in flip-flops. Thank you, Shine a Light, for helping me get out of that situation and for saving my life! Today I am blessed with housing and my family is reunited. I thank God every day for the compassion shown by Shine a Light!”—Melinda, in the drains from 2009-2011
“I want to thank Shine a Light for being a helping hand in so many ways: batteries, underwear, flashlights, toiletries, blankets. But more than that, when my good friend Sharon drowned in a flood, they put me and her boyfriend up in a motel room and helped us recover. It was a noble thing to do. Shine a Light is as real as it gets!”—Kregg, currently in the drains
“I am forever grateful for Shine a Light. When we were down in the tunnels, they would bring us water and food. Brought Thanksgiving dinner to us, too. We were treated like ordinary people instead of subhumans. I will never forget the kindness shown by Shine a Light. Thank you so much!”—Cyndi, in the drains from 2010-2013
“Angels came to visit us in the tunnels, but I just didn’t get it for a few years. I wasn’t ready. But Shine a Light kept coming down to the tunnels—to hear their voices and see their flashlights in the dark was a relief—and I finally did get it. When everyone else gave up on us, Shine a Light didn’t. They gave me hope, then I believed in myself and put in the work.”—Phil, in the drains from 2001-2010
Shine a Light accepts financial and material donations.
To make a financial donation, please visit https://freedombh.org/shine-a-light/.
Material donations that we often need include: bottled water, nonperishable food, socks, underwear, flashlights, headlamps, AA and AAA batteries and Target and McDonald’s gift cards. (Donated items must be new or gently used.)
Donations can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Freedom House:
3852 Palos Verdes Street
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Because outreach in the drains can be dangerous and intrusive, Shine a Light does not typically work with volunteers.
Freedom House is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency dedicated to assisting individuals recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. It offers housing, food assistance and support services in a structured environment. One of the largest facilities of its type in Nevada, it is fully licensed by the Division of Behavioral Health and approved by Parole and Probation to provide reintegration services to ex-offenders released from the Department of Corrections.
For more info
For more info on Freedom House, visit www.freedomhousesoberliving.com.