OPINION: Reno’s Homeless Plan Following in California’s Footsteps

Submitted by Valerie White, Quality of Life-Reno

We aren’t seeing increasing numbers of homeless individuals in Reno because we lack housing. There will never be sufficient housing for those wanting free housing; the demand for anything “free” will always be greater than the supply. We’re seeing more and more street dwellers due to increased chronic drug/alcohol use, increased mental illness, decreased consequences for unlawful behavior, increased availability of “homeless services,” and increased reliance on government entitlements.

Valerie White

Reno is following the same plans that San Francisco and Los Angeles have implemented for housing and managing the homeless, so we can expect the same results. Is that really what Reno wants? Why are we following other cities’ failed “solutions”?

LAW ENFORCEMENT

The Reno City Council has ordered our law enforcement agencies to stand down on prosecuting common crimes of the homeless, preventing the RPD from enforcing basic laws and ordinances that protect property and citizens. City leaders are more concerned with protecting the rights of the homeless than they are with the rights and safety of tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. Reno’s street dwellers endanger and victimize our citizens, businesses, and public facilities.

Their chosen lifestyle includes: defecating/urinating in public, tossing needles and other drug paraphernalia throughout city streets and parks; theft, possessing stolen property, being under the influence, lewd public acts, and disregarding other quality of life laws and ordinances.

Tragically, street dweller behavior all too often also includes violently injuring or killing others. It makes no difference whether homeless lawless behavior is exacerbated by drugs, alcohol, or mental illness; their behavior is criminal, yet there are minor to no consequences for it.

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Even worse, Nevada’s lawmakers recently reduced several felonies to misdemeanors, disregarding many requests from law enforcement agencies not to pass this legislation. Reno citizens can expect to see an increase in crime in their neighborhoods if they haven’t already.

RELIANCE ON GOVERNMENT ENTITLEMENTS

Few are aware that a major mission of all federal homeless programs is to help clients access every dime possible from federal entitlements. This help is called a “supportive service,” and is just one of the offered supportive services such as drug, mental health, and employment counseling, and other life-rebuilding activities.

It sounds like a winning plan, but it’s no surprise that the assistance offered to receive money entitlements is welcomed, while the life-rebuilding programs are almost completely rejected since participation in them is not required to access any services or entitlements. 

Drug addicts are now being classified as “disabled” due to their self-inflicted addictions. With a regular federal entitlement and no requirement to participate in programs that rebuild lives, street dwellers continue on the road to self-destruction. Social workers who have worked at homeless encampments will also tell you that very few of them accept offered services when the encampments are closed.

Federal entitlements do nothing to address behaviors leading to homelessness, but instead enable the chronically homeless individual to slowly commit suicide through dangerous drug use or street crime, including murder, seen 3 times in the past few months here in Reno.

Until the causes of homelessness are addressed, the number of homeless will, of course, increase regardless of how much money is poured into enabling programs or entitlements. 

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HOMELESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Homeless programs ask for ever-increasing amounts of funding every year.  Taxpayers would be more enthusiastic about funding these programs IF they produced visible results in helping large numbers of individuals regain independent and functioning lives, but they don’t. Instead, we see ever increasing numbers of street dwellers accessing services on the public dime, evidencing increased dependence, not independence.

The homeless industrial complex is growing by leaps and bounds, NOT because it is successfully reducing homelessness, but because is has become big business. Increased homelessness translates to increased funding which leads to steady employment, increased pay and job openings, and program expansion. The motivation to decrease homelessness has been twisted inside out. Program success is now demonstrated by increased funding and program expansion, not by reduced homeless numbers.

No clear thinking individual – or city – would continue to fund anything that doesn’t demonstrate success, yet countless cities are funding the same failed programs and plans, essentially just feeding the homeless industrial complex.

Seattle, LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, and other cities across the country have all followed the same failed homeless plans and programs, and their cities are in decay with evidence of serious health dangers on the horizon. The Reno and Sparks’ Community Homeless Advisory Board, along with the homeless industrial complex, are also marching confidently and arrogantly toward the same homeless disasters called San Francisco and Los Angeles.

It’s time for Reno and Sparks residents, the most numerous stakeholders in the homeless solution for our cities, to demand that we not follow the same path to disaster. Let’s stop the insanity and actually address the causes of homelessness. Let’s not play “Follow the Leader” to disaster.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Attend the two upcoming community meetings (dates yet to be announced) on homelessness and demand that your voice be heard. Demand that Reno and Sparks fund programs that address the causes of homelessness, not programs, shelter, and housing that enable a suicidal lifestyle. You can bet that the homeless industrial complex will be there at these meetings, loudly defending their positions, programs, and funding.


Valerie White, a Reno resident, is a member of the community group Quality of Life-Reno (www.QOL-Reno.org). She has worked with homeless individuals for a number of years and believes that Reno and Sparks’ present homeless plan will deliver the same results she saw realized in Southern California.  She welcomes comments at [email protected].

Submitted opinions do not represent the views of ThisisReno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

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14 Comments

  1. Thank you Valerie, I totally agree with your article. Until there are some rules to taking advantage of the free stuff, we will forever be dealing with this. Non-voluntary participation in a drug rehabilitation program should be necessary for one to access all services. If this participation is refused, then they receive no services. The rest of society must be considered while we cleanse our streets of these individuals who put the rest of us in jeopardy. You are right on! Homelessness is a choice for many of these people and inspite of what we see, they know how to work the system.

  2. Since there are not enough shelters how about looking to some of the empty but useful building that have space such as Renown’s Skilled Nursing facility on Oddie, perhaps partiality donated. It has bedrooms, bathrooms,kitchen for a couple cooks to fix meals. I would donate time to help out and could find others.

  3. I am 3rd generation Nevadan. You, your ideas, and the organization you represent are completely out of touch with reality.

    YOU DO UNDERSTAND THAT IT COSTS APPROXIMATELY $20,000 in direct costs per year to keep an inmate in prison. Are you advocating the creation of 10,000’s of new prisoners in the system. This means new prisons and prison supply chain expenses. We are literally talking 100’s of millions of dollars. I would like to ask you who in the hell do you think will pay for this?

    Also, you never even bothered to mention what the root causes of homelessness even are. So I ask you, what are they? do you care to answer?

    And in closing your website states “70% of WCSD high school diplomas are worthless” which is not true and reflects what a biased foolish individual you are.

    Maybe you should who funds your crap?

    As a Nevadan, I am ashamed of ignorant people like you.

  4. This Is Reno has a long history of articles and opinion pieces that stretch the imagination of credibility, and for that I am thankful. This piece wins the prize for wrong headedness, lack of understanding, lack of compassion and lack of moral values. It is the essence of privilege and classism.

    Rates of homelessness track closely to the economy, not a surge in mental illness, nor a desire for drugs nor the increase in services and free stuff. Costs of housing rising and stagnant wages and reductions in availability of low-end jobs characterize northern Nevada and explain why we’re seeing families and even people with jobs needing assistance.

    Let’s get real. This is the same twisted logic for abusing asylum seekers and refugees. It’s hate, fear, prejudice and envy that does not belong in considerations of meeting the needs of all of our community members.

    • It’s not classism to want a clean city without garbage and needles strewn about , and it’s not classism to want low crime. Most people living on the streets are drug addicts and or alcoholics. Petty crime rises. It’s a fact. Enabling bad behavior works for no one.

    • It is unproductive to condemn anyone with whom you disagree as being full of hate, fear, prejudice and envy. My concern is for ALL residents of Reno; those living on the streets will die early deaths because their issues are not being addressed. I want them to be healed of their issues, not enabled until they die. Are Los Angeles and San Francisco’s failures to save people not evidence enough? http://www.foxla.com/news/401079474-video

  5. I agree that participation in life-rebuilding programs as well as drug testing should be a requirement for anybody homeless seeking assistance. I feel this will filter out those who are really trying to rebuild their lives. 4 years ago, I was homeless and stayed in the women’s shelter for 1 month. I followed all the rules and accomplished all the goals my case manager set up for me. I started working and saved my money. Because of this the Reno Housing Authority paid for the application fee and deposit so I could move into an apartment. I am so thankful for the help I received from the Volunteers of America and the Reno Housing Authority. With that being said, I encountered a lot of people who were content being homeless. Not only do they have access to being fed 3 times a day, they also receive EBT. Then they exchange their EBT for money or drugs. They have a place to lay their heads at night (be it in the shelter or overflow). I have witnessed some who receive SSI or SSDI benefits and at the beginning of each month, they leave the shelter and blow their entire check on gambling or partying. Only to return to the shelter when their money is gone. They are content with this because for the rest of the month, they are taken care of. Not every person who is homeless is working the system. But for those who are, the enabling needs to end.

  6. Bravo. Duh🙄 I was arrested in Reno on July 19 2013. I thank God every day for that arrest. I am now a recovered Alcoholic and drug addict by the Grace of God AA and the support of my Court Services Officer Lori Pitt who treated me with kindness respect and understanding. If I had not been arrested and been thrown in jail I never would have had the opportunity to see my family again develop faith in God of my understanding and live a decent life. I was on probation and needed every consequence to be free of this fatal progressive disease. It seems to me that Reno is following a sadistic path and with being easy on the drug addicted. It is criminal of Reno to allow these human beings to continue their death wish. It is also criminal for Reno to allow these people to attack steal and victimize the citizens of Reno who do follow the law pay their taxes and love Reno. Please know that this lack of consequences for crimes and drug alcohol and gambling is killing these people who are suffering from a disease not homelessness. Please let the good Police do their job. Thank you Valerie for telling the truth. Catherine Burns

    • Catherine, I so respect your experience and courage in speaking out. I hope your thoughts and experience will help others see how lives can be saved. I’d appreciate an opportunity to speak with you. Please reach out to me at [email protected]

  7. Finally we have somebody who speaks loud not about the rights of homeless but cares about all the rest of us.
    Thank You,Valerie,great article and all the best to You!!!!!!None of us would be allowed to sleep in the park or by the wonderful river(will be fined or punished)-but the homeless can…So sad-not for them but for us-taxpayers.They can live for free anywhere…My suggestion:homeless should be mandatory!!! removed from public areas.

Comments are closed.