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VIDEO: Homeless Advocates Speak Out After Shutdown of Camp

By Bob Conrad
Advocates for the homeless protested at City Hall in 2015.

Advocates for the homeless protest at City HallHomelessness was a huge topic to at today’s Reno City Council meeting. Members of Reno’s homeless community and  advocates spoke during a lengthy public comment about a recent shutdown of camp at Sixth Street and Wells Avenue.

According to city officials, complaints were made by residents and businesses about sanitation, health issues and debris at the location.

Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said that the site was cleaned up for health and safety reasons.

“It wasn’t necessarily safe for them to be there,” he said. “A lot of it had to do with sanitary conditions.”

Soto said that a fence was placed around the property.

“I instructed our officers not to make any arrests and to provide resources to the homeless individuals to see if we can get them help from the community or family members,” he said.

Advocates said that the homeless have been treated unfairly by police.

“I’ve been harassed by the cops constantly,” one homeless man said during public comment at the meeting. “My experience with the (Record Street) shelter … they’re playing games with the homeless.

“I don’t know the answer,” he said in frustration. “Bathrooms are important. Access to water is important. Trash bags aren’t the answer.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve asked what would help him.

“(To) stop being harassed by the cops while I’m sleeping,” he said.

Schieve commended him for speaking.

“I want to commend you for coming here today and I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience in our shelters,” she  said.

Advocates stressed that the homeless aren’t getting respect from the city and law enforcement.

City Councilmember Paul McKenzie countered that businesses have rights too and are concerned about the homeless defecating on their properties.

Respect goes both ways, he said.

Joshua Livernois, who works with Northern Nevada HOPES, said: “We’re trying to get people of marginalized communities into the services that they need (and) trying to get them to find their own voice.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘These are not disposal human beings. The homeless community is part of the make up of Reno.'” quote=”‘These are not disposal human beings. The homeless community is part of the make up of Reno.'”]

Soto agreed.

“Myself and the Reno Police Department, we know a lot of these individuals, (some) on a pretty personal level,” he said. “We understand that mental health is a very challenging subject, and we take that very seriously.”


Lisa Lee October 29, 2015 - 11:41 am

Thank you for covering this story. It is great that the Reno City Council was open to hearing from a diverse range of community members on how we can strategize to make Reno an inclusive and compassionate place to live! I applaud you for presenting a balanced story, yet I urge you to include the name of the individual that you called “one homeless man.” He has a name! He provided his name just like everyone else during public commentary. His name is Bill and he is a dear friend. By omitting his name, you reinforce the pervasive objectification of individuals who are seen as members of the “other” stigmatized group by the media and society. Please be mindful to be considerate of everyone’s comments by including the speaker’s name. When we are homeless, we are often nameless, faceless, and invisible. Please help to give a name, a face, and visibility to individuals that are often left out of the decision making process that directly affects their lives. Thank you again for covering this story.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conrad October 29, 2015 - 1:09 pm

Agreed, and please consider that it was also a question of whether he would want to be identified publicly as homeless, an imperfect decision for sure. Appreciate the feedback.

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