For at least 800 people on Sunday, a host of adversities including the rising price of everything — whether it be food, gas, or rent — meant that they wouldn’t be able to put a Christmas meal on their own table.
So they came to the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada to get one.
“Really, Catholic is the Greek word for universal, so this is really about helping all God’s children with no strings and no questions,” said Deacon Tom Roberts, Catholic Charities’ president. “I like to say that we don’t check religious ID cards around here, so anybody can get help and hope.”
The Christmas Day meal served up a first for the organization, which began as a charity in 1941. Instead of the customary fare of turkey and mashed potatoes as seen in years past, the charity served up a Mexican meal replete with tamales, enchiladas and Mexican pasta salad, to better reflect the diversity of the clientele. Diners were also served pie and hot chocolate with marshmallows.
“The problem is they keep raising all the rents. It’s the gas, it’s the food. We don’t have a chance,” said Eugene Peery, 60, who lives in the shelter on the Catholic Charities property, which is between North Main Street and and Las Vegas Boulevard North south of East Owens Avenue. “We can’t get our foot in the door.”
Peery said he was grateful for Sunday’s meal. His friend, James Myles, 60, also appreciated it.
“It was delicious,” Myles said, who also lives in on the on-site shelter. He first started living on the streets in 2006.
Paul Ruiz, 42, said he needs a safety net like Catholic Charities: “I rely on this place,” he said.
Volunteers LaMadrid Marquez, 47, Aisha Johnson, 44, and Jynnell McClellan, 50, were helping to serve Christmas meals, which they do annually, but they also volunteer regularly at the organization.
“We’re here to bring that hope, and letting them know that there are people out here who care about you,” Marquez said.
“Sometimes you’ve got to step out of yourself in order to help other folks,” McClellan said. “So that’s what we’re doing today.”
Some of those people are homeless, but some are not, Roberts said, adding that inflation has many people in Las Vegas on the edge of homelessness. He said about 50 men live in the overnight shelter who get up every morning to go to work, but still can’t find a place to live.
“We’ve always had a few of those. Never this many,” Roberts said. “And that’s, I think, this housing crisis and the cost issues, especially for renters. They don’t have anywhere to go, so they come here.”