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Homeless, Advocates Respond to Sparks Sweep of Camps Along River

By Bob Conrad
Sparks Police Lieutenant Greta Woyciehowsky. Image: Sparks Facebook video.
Sparks Police Lieutenant Greta Woyciehowsky. Image: Sparks Facebook video.

Sparks Police Lieutenant Greta Woyciehowsky. Image: City of Sparks Facebook video.

The City of Sparks is touting its homeless sweep along the Truckee River as a success.

A video posted Monday on Facebook featured Sparks Police Lieutenant Greta Woyciehowsky outlining what she said was the problem with the homeless along the river — too many people camping, dogs running loose, drugs and needles, bathing and crapping in the river, and massive amounts of trash.

Woyciehowsky said that multiple agencies worked together to make the river “a safer and healthier environment. We’re pleased to report that the bike path has been cleaned of all trash and camps.”

She promised that the homeless sweeps will be a work in progress, something the city will continue to work on.

“One of the other concerns was the amount of trash that was starting to pile up,” Woyciehowsky explained.

Cheryl Edwards, left, and Terry Audiss said they were forced to move from the Truckee River in Sparks after the city initiated a clean-up and sweep. They said they just moved to another spot on the river outside of Sparks city limits. Image: Bob Conrad.

Advocates Critical of Sparks

Homeless advocates dispute the efficacy of the city’s actions. Jennifer Cassady with the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) pointed out what ThisisReno reported before the sweeps — services are limited.

“There are no resources in town, so I’m not sure which ones you pointed them to,” she posted in response to the City of Sparks video. “We all know the shelters are overflowing and the animal services only take away these precious family members and sell them. These are our neighbors and we should treat them as such.”
Sparks spokesperson Julie Duewel responded: “We worked diligently with Washoe County and the Volunteers of America to provide services to those living illegally along the river. Many were offered alcohol and drug, mental health, and shelter services. The Volunteers of America took everyone that accepted these services directly off the river and into shelters.”

Homeless individuals told ThisisReno that Sparks’ actions are actually exacerbating homelessness. Three people said today that, yes, they got kicked out of Sparks proper, but they merely relocated either to Reno or out of Washoe County.

Terry Audiss and his partner, Cheryl Edwards, were living at one location on the river for about a year. He said the sweeps cost him his driver license and birth certificate, which he said were discarded when the city swept the camps.

“They came through with … dump trucks and basically threw away important stuff,” he explained. “I was saving up trying to get us off the river. I’m a mechanic, and I had to save up tools to start working again. They purposefully threw them away even when I asked them not to.

“The resource that they offered, the shelter, was full,” he added. “I could have went there, but I’d have to leave her (Edwards) and the dog. If they would have offered something where we could have gone as a family, yeah we would’ve took it.”

Audiss said he’s still on the river, “just in a different location.” He and Edwards are restarting their lives but now with fewer resources. They said most of those caught up in the sweep just moved somewhere else. Sparks, in its video, said that many rounded up by the city took advantage of the services that were offered.

“They (Sparks) said they didn’t really care where (we went) as long as we were out of their county,” Audiss continued. He said many of the river residents are just like other members of the greater Reno community — there are good and bad actors.

“We’re not camping, we’re living,” he continued. “I don’t have options. I don’t have family. I’m trying to take care of us with the little things we’ve got.”



Elaine Hoem July 9, 2018 - 10:27 am

One of the things that concerns me with the Sparks ‘sweep’ is that they had no regard for this man’s driver’s license, birth certificate and tools. A more humane approach would have been to tell people to collect all the things worth saving before they swept the place and then giving them a viable alternative. The way this happened only insured that these people would be home, respect and compassion?

Ken Koeppe July 9, 2018 - 9:33 am

As a youth growing up in Oakland, my teachers strongly advised that all of us get a good education so we wouldn’t end up being Bums. They also pointed out, that we owed it to the taxpayers of our community, who were paying for the schools and teachers to
do our utmost best. If we look at the root of this social problem we should be able to figure out that it is the: Education SYSTEM
generation after generation ( as the standards are lowered & test scored skewed ) have garnered less knowledge to cope with an advancing society; while taxpayers pay more for less. ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

Daniel Beeler July 6, 2018 - 11:03 am

When i moved to Gerlach in 1978 the first words of wisdom I was told was stay out of Sparks they are Nazis..didnt believe it until i witnessed how they reacted to us miners..

Grace Blaylock July 5, 2018 - 11:18 pm

When they take away their ID and meager belongings what do they expect them to do? You cannot just kick them out, you have to offer adequate shelter and a path to jobs, treatment, housing, because otherwise it’s just a vicious circle. They will just move from one place to another and won’t be able to restart their lives.

Richard Thompson July 5, 2018 - 9:41 pm

Granted the homeless need a place to be, but camping along a scenic waterway, or in any city, county or state park, is absolutely not the place for them to be. Located in such places they invariably cause nuisance, despoil the natural areas, and people engaged in pleasure recreation do not want to stumble into the “living room” of people (not infrequently drug addicts or criminals) who have appropriated public land for private use.
This is a problem that goes beyond the ability of any one city to solve on its own, and we need state and federal leadership on this issue. I am envisioning the equivalent of refugee camps set up around the nation to shelter or house those who have no housing.

This article explores various options for sheltering or housing the homeless:


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