Homeless man lends a hand 

Rob Cilley finds value in reaching out to fellow homeless people around UNLV campus

Homeless man lends a hand

Rob Cilley is seen around the UNLV campus. He helps other homeless people and preaches to students the harm drugs cause. Photo by Christopher Cornelius

One might think of charitable organizations founded by wealthy philanthropists as helping the homeless, but one Las Vegas man knows there is no one better for the job than someone who understands the problem first hand.

Rob Cilley, a native of Las Vegas, helps other homeless people from the streets around the UNLV campus.

Born in Sunrise Hospital to a middle class family, Cilley lived like everyone else. But everything changed when his father died.

Two years later, his mother, a head nurse at Sunrise Hospital, and his sister, a lawyer, were killed in a drunk driving accident.

Cilley said the driver is still in jail for his mistake.

Cilley, a chef by profession, worked in the hotel industry, but wasted his money on alcohol and drugs. He said his choices brought him close to death more than once.

 Cilley was so far in debt that he lost all his possessions.

Locking himself in a room with drugs on one side of him and booze on the other, Cilley was determined to make his heart stop and end his painful life.

“I tried to die, but death couldn’t find me,” he said. 

His neighbors found him before it was too late and after seven months in a coma, he woke up in a hospital bed.

Cilley had nowhere to call home and no one to help him, but with a new reason to live, he set out to share his experiences with others, hoping they would not end up like he did.

“I get into fellowship with the kids at UNLV and tell them my story,” he said, explaining his efforts to reach out to the homeless in the Las Vegas community.

Candice Wright said she has had a couple encounters with Cilley and finds him entertaining.

“Sometimes he doesn’t remember talking to me, but what he has to say keeps my attention,” she said.

Wright added that the first time he approached her, she was unnerved because of stereotypes placed on the homeless community, but she came around to his stories and compassion.

“He wants to help and that’s all he says,” she said.  “He tells me how he hopes students make the right choices in life and use him as an example.”

Cilley keeps himself clean and presentable and tries to be involved with programs on campus that help the homeless. Last week, he helped with the Meals on Wheels as part of Unity Fest.

“I go every day to Vons and 7-Eleven, take the drinks and food they don’t need for the day and distribute them among the homeless,” Cilley said.

“I do fliers for High Rollers and Stephano’s to earn a couple of bucks,” he said, but explained that his greater interest lies in helping people like him.

“I want to give more church time and help the homeless as much as I can,” Cilley said.

Satisfied with the second chance he has been given, Cilley showed he has found meaning in life. 

“I’m happy now, and ready to rock and roll,” he said.