Homelessness crisis in the Student Union

UNLV Student Union courtyard, facing east. Photo by Allister C. Dias.

Seated in the heart of UNLV’s campus, the Student Union has always been considered a common space for students to gather. Recent concerns presented by both staff and faculty members have highlighted a noticeable crisis unfolding within the Student Union; a seemingly large population of homeless individuals.

Students have voiced their particular concerns about whether or not the university is doing anything about the crisis and whether or not they should be concerned about the population of homeless individuals.

Scott Oberes, a building manager at the Student Union, has had experience with the homelessness crisis and plays an integral role in facilitating visitors to the Student Union.

“The Student Union is one of the most popular buildings on campus that can lead to a lot of foot traffic from students, staff, and people not affiliated with the university (e.g., external clients that have an event at the SU, families touring the campus, and in the topic of discussion, the homeless). Since UNLV is a public university this ultimately results in the university being an open campus. This means that anyone is allowed to come to campus freely and as long as they adhere to the building’s policies and rules there is no reason to kick them out,“ Oberes said. 

Oberes added that homeless individuals would be found using the student lounge on the second floor of the SU. He further implied that perhaps having students scan their RebelCard to access the lounge could help alleviate the issue.

“Considering how the SRWC has removed their furniture on the 1st and 2nd floors, the gym’s regulars would migrate over to the SU making it a reason why there has been more homeless at the SU,” Oberes continued. “Looking at it from a student’s perspective, it is important for the university and primarily the SU to enhance the student experience every time students enter the building as well as enhancing the guest experience, especially for those that have an event or conference at the Student Union for the first time.” 

Rye Jezreel Maverick Garing, an audio/visual technician in the Student Union, takes a more compassionate viewpoint on the issue.

“Honestly, I just feel compassion and pity for them, since the SU might be their only place to go, especially now that it’s cold outside,” Garing said. “The only thing that concerns me, however, about the homelessness situation is whenever there’d be a stench on the seats or other areas. I think that factors like this in the SU make it less ‘appealing’ to be student-servicing and a more ‘community’ location.” 

Since the Student Union is a federally-operated building, government regulation does not explicitly give staff the right to force any non-student individuals out. Thereby, staff will have to accommodate them, as long as they don’t cause disturbances or harass students.

Stefano Rubini, a fourth-year computer science student visits the student union daily to meet up with his friends. Rubini told the Free Press that he feels a bit conflicted about the homelessness crisis in space. “I understand that many of these people don’t have a place to go,” said Rubini. “But it can be a bit distracting from the student experience when students are harassed or odors stay on furniture. This has deterred me a bit from visiting the student union. I think the university should look at requiring students to use rebel cards to enter the facility to ensure the safety of students.”

Outside of conventional policies, the Student Union has made an effort to facilitate the population of homeless individuals. Methods such as authorized card access to enter certain student facilities have helped deter homeless individuals from entering areas designated for students.

Currently, the efforts of the Student Union have created a safe environment for students and homeless alike. While these efforts have created a temporarily safe environment for both students and the homeless, improvements by the university will continue to make the campus a safer environment as a whole.


  1. We should be helping these people as much as we can. As a student, I oppose adding barriers that would require a student ID to keep homeless individuals out. It’s inhumane. If anything, we should be adding more spaces for homeless people to feel safe.

  2. I had a homeless person on campus call me slurs and tell me he was going to beat the shit out of me. The only reason I can determine why he felt the need to threaten to assault me is because I was walking within 40 feet of him. My patience is over and if you read this and care for the safety of your children send them to another school.

  3. There is no real reason for the homeless to hang around in the SU. They pee, poop and occupy students space that we pay for. It’s always a pain to find somewhere to sit without gagging from their stench. There was this one guy who flashed me and he thought it was funny. It is not fun seeing a man swinging their genitals around. Don’t come here if you want to feel safe and comfortable.

  4. I pay thousands of dollars per semester to attend UNLV and I fear for my safety. There are always homeless people lurking about and making students uncomfortable. I do not feel safe at all going to the Student Union at night. I feel so uneasy and worried. There are no places to go to study without being bombarded. It brings down the value and reputation of the university. Something has to be done.

  5. I don’t understand why in the world, non student’s should be aloud at campus, unless they have business there of course? Why would it be the Universities job to find a safe heaven for these troubles souls? Shouldn’t that be the city’s job?
    If 1000’s of dollars is paid for a education, why wouldn’t that money also pay for a safe environment to get that education?
    The students should have a place where they can safely meet, do home work, build networks, be able to enjoy their time at college. I would be embarrassed if I was the mayor of this city, as obviously she and her colleagues have not created enough places for these troubled souls to go. Also the president of UNLV should be embarrassed, A president who claims that their is no money to secure my children’s stay at his school. Maybe it is inhumane locking these troubled souls out, as previously stated. But isn’t also inhumane or unfair if student’s are afraid, being at campus or have slurs thrown after them,. UNLV’s job is not to care for homeless or troubled individuals, their job is to help
    students have a wonderful time during their stay at UNLV. And also of course get them a great education. Action is needed, before someone gets hurt.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here