By Afton Neufeld
Homelessness is not a new topic to the Northern Nevada area. However, a new epidemic of housing issues has been brought up in the past few years, and that is week to week or month to month motels, also referred to by many as “weeklies.”
Weeklies are supposed to provide temporary housing for those who need a temporary place to stay. The conditions are deemed unlivable long term, as they have no real kitchen and have extremely limited space. Unfortunately, for many of our neighbors in Washoe County, weeklies have become their new permanent housing due to a lack of alternative housing options.
“The problem is, there’s no class that can prepare you for what it’s truly like to be homeless,” said Greg Horton as he recounted the many months he spent living on the streets of Reno.
Horton is a 66-year-old former elevator mechanic residing at the Easy Inn Weekly Motel. He moved to Reno in 2005 where he started working on the elevators at Renown. However, his whole life trajectory changed in 2008 when he and his significant other were hit by a car while trying to cross at the light on Keystone and 6th street.
“I messed up my hip and my back really bad, but the news got worse when we found out my girlfriend had multiple types of cancer,” said Horton.
He immediately began his passion for medicine and researched hundreds of articles to try to find cures. While some of his efforts were successful, they were not enough.
“I couldn’t figure out the lymphatic cancer,” Horton tearfully recounted.
After the tragic passing of his significant other and loss of ability to work due to his injuries, Horton found himself newly homeless at 52.
“You think, ‘how’d I get here?’” said Horton.
Horton recalled many different stories of banding together with other people trying to stay warm while sleeping outside. He used his medical knowledge to help friends treat things like gout and assisted in wound care. Horton expressed the uncertainty he felt during that time, and the relief he had when his disability was approved and he was then able to afford a weekly motel room.
“We’ve had at least five different bug infestations since I’ve lived here.”
“One of the first things I thought was, ‘This is so wonderful, I don’t have to worry about my possessions being stolen’,” said Horton.
A key moment for him was also the first time he laid on his bed. “ I laid there for an hour and a half unable to sleep, and then I realized, I wasn’t used to sleeping on a bed. There’s a lot to readjusting to being within [indoors],” said Horton.
Unfortunately, the weekly motel wasn’t as stable of an environment as Horton originally hoped.
“We’ve had at least five different bug infestations since I’ve lived here. I keep a tidy space, but that doesn’t help when your neighbors have cockroaches and bedbugs, those spread like wildfire,” said Horton.
The spaces in weekly motels have been called out by the City of Reno as unclean and unlivable in many cases. In a presentation given last year, one of the top code violations that motels have are unsanitary conditions that lead to bug infestations.
Many are calling for motel owners to make their living spaces more livable and to better care for their tenants. As for Horton, he is keeping positive and continuing to help his neighbors with different medical ailments in any way he can.
“The most beautiful thing in life is to give to others,” said Horton. “You always have to have hope.”