A full house, but a tough hand

For two years, we discussed bed bugs and little else. We spent hours strategizing about how to best eradicate bed bugs, how the bed bugs could survive and nest deep in wood beams, how the bed bugs were so resilient that they could withstand the most lethal chemical sprays and return, stronger and more invulnerable than before.

One of the more artistically inclined members of our troupe even drew a diagram of a bed bug nestled in a beam, to show how ineffective simple spraying was in battling the pesky little creatures.

Yes, while serving on the Samaritan House Board of Directors from 2003 to 2005, I built a healthy resentment against bed bugs. The men who entered the Samaritan House on Fourth Street and Washington Avenue, which since 1965 has helped thousands of alcoholics enter recovery and become productive members of society, were often chewed up in their sleep by these hyper-aggressive bugs. As one board member put it, it didn’t make any sense for a man to come in off the streets to try to get sober and be fairly eaten alive in his sleep.

We finally won the battle, if not the war, against the bed bugs by resorting to some form of nuclear armament. I honestly don’t know how the whole thing ended, but I do know that all of the mattresses in the 40-plus facility were replaced.

Today the House is facing a more serious threat than even the bed bugs. The continual financial problems we experienced a few years ago have become so pronounced that, for the first time in more than 40 years, the House faces closure. The numbers, as reported in a story by the R-J’s Lynette Curtis (who has been digging to great effect lately; she also reported Klondike Inn-homeless story earlier this week) are $17,000-$18,000 in monthly operating expenses, and $10,000 needed over the next couple of months to keep the House open. It is not the first time the House has faced financial strife, but it is the first time – to my knowledge, any way – that the board has actually faced the grim possibility of closing the doors. Residents, all of them men who are participating in Alcoholics Anonymous, are asked to pay $100 a week. Those who can, pay. Those who can’t, stay anyway, and donations have always balanced the books.

A generation ago, the House was able to survive through those donations. That’s no longer the case, primarily because of skyrocketing insurance rates. Thus, two Samaritan House-sponsored fundraisers have been set for this month: The “Hands Together” golf tournament at Las Vegas National Golf Course, set for Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. Registration is $150 per person; go to handstogether.eventbrite.com. Also, set for Oct. 28 at Boulder Station is “Loving Through Laughter” variety show, starring George Wallace. That event begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $40, and tickets are available at all Stations Casinos.

It’s impossible to calculate the effect the Samaritan House has had on our community. Because those who stay there do so anonymously, and because there has been little outreach over the years, its impact has never been adequately charted. But its closing would leave a giant void in the world of Las Vegas recovery, a development that would be all to easy to document by the growing number of men on the streets.


PL8 in my head: Good news, depending on what you mean by "quit." A vanity reading IQUIT, reported on a gray Lexus GS300

Fabulous Las Vegas appears at this Web site. John Katsilometes, who also hosts Our Metropolis, a weekly issues and affairs show, each Tuesday at 6 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM,  can be reached at 990-7720, 812-9812 or at [email protected]

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