Shine a Light update

No one died during Shine a Light’s first trip into the tunnels, so we’re considering it a success.

Seriously, we accomplished at least a few things. Two groups went in five or six tunnels and got acquainted with the terrain and the people who live down there. Kristi found a kitten in an open-air channel and helped reunite it with its mom. My group, which included David, Lacey and Macheo, helped Brian – who lives deep in a tunnel near the Rio – get treatment for an abscess on his stomach. (Brian could’ve stayed in the program and gotten off the streets, but chose to return to the underworld.)

Of the 35 to 40 people we talked to in the tunnels, only a handful expressed interest in getting out. Obviously, this is going to be a challenge. But we’re forming relationships and we hope to nurture them.

We were short on bottled water and canned goods – and the homeless always appreciate nice, comfortable socks. If you can spare any of these items, please contact Fuilala Riley of HELP of Southern Nevada at 702-369-4357 ext. 238 or

6 Responses

  1. MCIT Vegas says:

    To shed a little light on Matt’s “Shine a Light” project, when Matt and I first met, he indicated that he had written “Beneath the Neon” with hopes of the book bringing help to these folks within the tunnels. He had felt that he had not accomplished this, since “no agency has been down there to offer help since the books come out”. That can no longer be said!
    WE at HELP of Southern Nevada’s, Mobile Crisis Intervention Team look forward to working with Matt, and making a difference BENEATH THE NEON! Thanks Matt.
    Rich Penksa
    MCIT Coordinator
    HELP of Southern Nevada

  2. Matthew says:

    Thank you, Rich. You all do amazing work!

  3. Sarah Wavada says:

    Day two of “Shine a Light” was great in my opinion. Some of people were willing to allow services and that was great. 2 have been approved for food stamps already.

    Thanks, Matt, for everything!

    Sarah Wavada, Case Manager
    Straight from the Streets

  4. Kristi says:

    “Shine a Light” Success Update!
    Yesterday,we had a someone come out of the tunnels and into the office for an assessment. Thank you for making a difference.

    Kristi Swenson
    Level 1 Case Manager
    HELP of Southern Nevada

  5. MCIT Vegas says:

    Shine A light continues to grow. We have housed some folks and provided detox services for 3. Today we housed another client that is from the "Caesars" tunnel. Interesting circumstance…this guy had expressed a desire to exit homelessness about 3 days before he and the team were able to make it happen. In that time, he informed me that he had to move from the tunnel due to threats from jealous residents that were only days ago his friends! It seems that though they all may exit when ready, when one finally makes the commitment to exit homelessness, they are shunned by their immediate group.
    Shine A Light will continue….
    Rich Penksa
    Mobile Crisis Intervention Team
    HELP of Southern Nevada

  6. Matthew says:

    thanks for the updates, everyone. see you thursday!