Rhonda Lynn Ballow was shot to death in Las Vegas four days after Christmas. Ballow, who was homeless, was found dead just after 7 a.m. at a temporary homeless camp in the 2900 block of West Washington Avenue.
Metro Police believe the shooting happened just after midnight. The shooter continuously fired at Ballow while walking towards her.
Ballow is just one of the thousands living in Las Vegas where the city’s vice plays out in the shadows. An even darker side to ‘Sin City’ is the homeless community which lives in underground tunnels and struggles with addiction.
John A. Is a gambler “I don’t know how often I’ve walked into a casino with $20, hit $500 and spent every penny,” said the 59-year-old. “I wanted to make this my last month,” he said the morning after Ballow’s body was found. “I can’t handle another month.”
Farther into the tunnel, twenty-five feet beneath the Las Vegas strip, Kregg N. lay on a heap built from mattress foam. A homeless proponent and author who revisits the tubes told Kregg he looked skinny. “The casino trips keep me from eating good,” Kregg said. “I’ve splurged all my cash.”
Deeper into the tunnel flashlights reflect off abandoned water bottles full of urine. Hundreds live in the Las Vegas tunnels, the underbelly of the city. As reported by homeless advocates, the residents include full-time wage earners, vagrants and self-admitted hustlers.
Some claim there isn’t a stabler place to be displaced than the Las Vegas Strip. Sightseers drop money frequently, and players give winnings away. Often, people fall asleep at gaming devices and the homeless, like Kregg, remove cash vouchers.
“I wanted to be out of here. I got disheartened,” Kregg admitted. “I don’t drink, but I scored a cocktail. The next point I knew I was gambling and gave $60 of my social security check to dope and lost $500 playing the slots.”
California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada often swap homeless. A Greyhound from California recently dropped twenty-four homeless people at a McDonald’s near the tunnel opening. Many headed for the shadows.
Addiction is the most ubiquitous problem in the tunnel where life is segregated by heroin, crack or meth.
Dreams still live in the tunnel. Where else can a person hope to take $5 they got from panhandling, turn it into $100,000 and get their home and family back while getting their life back on the rails?
But that isn’t how it works.