Ande O. Karllson had been living in a tunnel near the Las Vegas Strip for seven years when she discovered she had breast cancer. Around the same time, a member of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team from HELP of Southern Nevada showed up, offering assistance to get her off the street.
“I started living in the tunnel in 2008 when the economy crashed,” Karllson said. “I worked for New York New York for a while and then McDonald’s. When the recession hit, they got rid of everyone. The result was unemployment and eventually homelessness. The tunnel I was living in is the Ritz Carlton for the homeless. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You get creative and resourceful when you’re homeless.”
Coming to Las Vegas from California, Karllson holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Human Factors. She worked for Boeing and had dreams of becoming an astronaut. Going from being a successful woman to living on the streets is a common factor, with 53% of the southern Nevada homeless population citing the loss of a job as the key factor of becoming homeless. Karllson now works as a sign spinner for various companies advertising on the streets of Las Vegas.
“There are lot of homeless with mental disabilities, but a lot of them were once professionals,” she said. “A lot of the people I met in the tunnel used to work top executive jobs, had families and large homes. We all ran into some bad luck. I always tell people I’m the only sign spinner with a PhD.”
The mobile crisis intervention team, which conducts welfare checks and interventions in Clark County, had visited Karllson in the past, but by the third time they came around, she was ready for assistance. She said if they had never approached her, she would have never found them.
“In two weeks, they had me in an apartment with a view of the Stratosphere,” Karllson said. “I wanted a toaster so bad because I hadn’t had toast in 10 years, so my case worker got me one. A chef donated all of his old pots and pans. I look around and I have everything I could possibly need. I can shower and cook at home. I used to like to drink beer a lot when I was in the tunnel, but now I don’t have a need to drink. If it wasn’t for HELP, I’d still be in that tunnel.”
Las Vegas Sands is proud to support HELP of Southern Nevada through the company’s corporate citizenship program, Sands Cares. Continuing its partnership with HELP, the company is committed to helping support the availability and effectiveness of stable housing in the Las Vegas area for homeless youth and adults.