Las Vegas authorities said the parking lot was the "best option" for a makeshift shelter after a 500-bed overnight shelter had to close due to a positive Covid-19 case.
Over the weekend, officials with the help of volunteers transformed the parking lot into a makeshift shelter, and ensured spaces for sleeping were drawn 6ft apart in accordance with federal social distancing guidelines.
Jace Radke, spokesperson for the city of Las Vegas, said the city and county had worked to open the temporary shelter after Catholic Charities closed and the city’s other shelter, Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, was nearly filled to capacity
A local coordinator said the parking lot at the Cashman Shelter, which is usually used for large conventions or sport games, is only a temporary space for the homeless people and the shelter will reopen within the week.
Denise Lanford, a homeless woman, told CNN affiliate KLAS she was overwhelmed to be provided with a place at the makeshift shelter.
"I'm about to cry," said Denise. "This right here is helping us feel secure, feel safe. Other places, you don't feel safe."
Nearly a dozen medical and physician students from Touro University were on hand to help set up the shelter on Saturday.
At first volunteers laid out 24,000 square feet of carpet to create sleeping mats, but decided to remove the carpet when it became clear that the material was difficult to disinfect and keep clean.
They settled for painting white boxes on the ground that were 6ft apart.
Images of homeless people sleeping on the ground sparked criticism on social media.
One Twitter user asked why people had to sleep on the ground in the "one of the richest countries in the world."
Nevada, a state in one of the richest countries in the world, has painted social-distancing boxes on a concrete parking lot for the homeless to sleep in. pic.twitter.com/svNJ0N9r3f— A Mancino-Williams (@Manda_like_wine)March 30, 2020
Julian Castro, the former presidential hopeful and mayor of San Antonio also took to Twitter to speak out against the makeshift shelter.
He said: "After criminalizing homelessness this year, Las Vegas is now packing people into concrete grids out of sight.
"There are 150k hotel rooms in Vegas going unused right now. How about public-private cooperation (resources) to temporarily house them there?"
After criminalizing homelessness this year, Las Vegas is now packing people into concrete grids out of sight.
There are 150K hotel rooms in Vegas going unused right now. How about public-private cooperation (resources) to temporarily house them there? And fund permanent housing! pic.twitter.com/wxZ4ZD6Jtc— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro)March 30, 2020
City official, Mr Radke said he could not speak to specific photos.
"Look, this is an emergency situation," Mr Radke told the Guardian.
"People are always going to criticise. But the city and country are working to ensure people can get the resources they need."
This morning the death toll in the US topped 3,000 making it the worst-hit country in the world for cases of the coronavirus
President Donald Trump has extended restrictive social-distancing guidelines which had been due to expire on Monday.