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Residents tour homeless camps along Truckee River

By Trevor Bexon
ARMED: Despite being billed as a peaceful event, a few of QOL-Reno's supporters showed up carrying firearms. Image: Trevor Bexon.

Saturday morning local advocacy group QOL (Quality of Life) Reno and the Monica Jaye Talk Show (KKFT 99.1 FM) hosted the “Riverfront 1000 Walking Tour” drawing attention to the conditions for those living in the area. The tour met at the City of Reno’s Brodhead Park tucked behind Greater Nevada Field on the Truckee River.

The organizers’ goal was to invite members of the community to assess the homeless population currently living there and to raise awareness about the negative effects of those living conditions.

A flyer from QOL-Reno distributed before the event describes those negative effects as including “human waste, garbage, illegal camping, toxic waste, drug waste, and crime & violence.”

“We can’t continue like it is.”

Garbage from a nearby homeless encampment is seen along the Truckee River.
Tents and garbage from a homeless camp along the bank of the Truckee River.
Photo: Trevor Bexon

Paul White, the director of QOL-Reno and the Stronghold Institute, was one of the leaders of the walk. He said his two goals for the walk were “to simply educate the public about the situation of the Truckee being in an extremely dire state because it’s 85 percent of our drinking water. The other part of the walk is to let what we are seeing speak for itself, to motivate people to get involved. We know we can’t continue like it is.”

The Stronghold Institute, a non-profit, bible-based learning and healing organization, states on its website that they offer life-changing programs and services for all ages.

According to White, “Stronghold is there for the homeless as long as they become clean and sober, work a job, obey the law, get help for mental illness if they need it.”

Throughout the walk, many attendees held conversations with those living as homeless to hear what they had to say. The ideas of adding restrooms, adding more waste containers and sectioning off designated areas for tents were overheard as possible solutions.

To say they are all violent and all criminals, that’s just trying to marginalize the entire homeless community.”

Opponents argue against heavy-handed approach

Myke Read lives in Midtown and has been a Reno resident since 1996. He has been homeless at points in his life and came to the walk to represent the homeless and make sure no one was being harassed or threatened.

Read was seen throughout the morning observing the interactions of walk participants when they were speaking to those that are homeless.

“QOL seems to be a troll organization. Speaking with them today they say they don’t want a heavy hand but they keep enlisting a heavy hand with their tactics and their approach,” Read said. “I think their heart was in the right place at first but it’s gotten out of hand. They are just trying to harass and threaten the homeless community now.

“Homeless living sucks,” he continued. “I don’t know anyone that gets up in the morning to go live down by the river in 14-degree weather. This is a human issue of homelessness. To say they are all violent and all criminals, that’s just trying to marginalize the entire homeless community.

“I think we should open a dialogue for all involved. We all [QOL, the homeless and residents] would like to see some change from our city and local government to help with this problem. Let’s open a dialogue for a new tent city since the city tore down the last tent city – this is now the new problem. I know it’s another band-aid, but with enough band-aids maybe we can stop the bleeding.”

Counter-protesters hold signs during a walking tour of Reno's homeless encampments.

The counter-protesters were fewer than the QOL walking group, but they were loud and let their opinions be heard at moments during the tour.

“Food not Bombs” was on-site handing out food and telling walk attendees to help in other ways like adding porta-potties, giving out food or clothes and adding dumpsters rather than walking around with guns on their hips “just staring at us.”

During the tour, it was noticeable how many tents were set up along the river, with many collecting trash around their campsites.

Reno resident Adam Guber said he was affected  by the sight. He said he felt unsafe coming to this section of the river to fish with his son because of human feces, needles, and public mental health problems.

“We can’t enjoy the river anymore. I came out today to get the facts and see how we can help,” Guber said. “In years past I was fishing and it was great. We felt safe and didn’t have to worry and now I believe these pictures are worth a thousand words.

“We can’t come down here to enjoy the river. I’m open to hearing ideas on both sides – we have to work together to figure out a solution. This current situation is not the solution.”

Through the disagreements and passion from many involved in the walking tour, there was one commonality that seemed to echo from each person: the community as a whole isn’t doing enough, and more must be done because the current state of homelessness is not working for anyone.



Joe Martin November 13, 2019 - 9:49 pm

The issue is just getting worse. Anybody that claims it’s totally safe to walk the river trail is oblivious.
As somebody that used to frequent the area as a fly fisherman (auto museum to fishermen’s park), I haven’t even bothered going down there for the last 4 months. People verbally threaten you if you are too close to their tents, young kids on bikes trying to sell you dope, constantly being asked for money or cigarettes and a few times have had machetes/whips flaunted at me as intimidation.
The police won’t do anything even when it comes to limited possession or using openly. The city’s only reaction has been to put skinny kids on segways that just mindlessly drive up and down the path. Then you have a select few of locals that throw a fit anytime something proactive is done to move these people.
I won’t even get into the damage that the rivers ecosystem has taken. Nobody seems to care that it’s not safe to be in that water anymore.
They are people, they have issues and they need help. Drowning them with more drug money and more reasons to stay on the same path isn’t helping. Look at Seattle,LA,SF…

Karin W Morris November 7, 2019 - 5:33 pm

I have lived in this area for 35 years and i have never seen the river that populated with tents. It definitely stems from the housing crisis and of course the mentally ill and addicted but I’d like to ask the women above where they are suggesting these people get help and treatment? You do realize there isn’t any state or federal fundded mental health help anymore right? Treatment centers are approximately $30,000 a MONTH. I thought your post was thoughtful and intelligent sounding it just wasn’t very realistic. I’m definitely interested in your opinion though.

Adam Guber November 5, 2019 - 9:02 pm

Try running the trail in Reno from Aces ballpark to Fisherman’s Park. Better yet walk along the banks of the river and Please do not trespass on the illegally posted campsites with mentally ill people yelling at themselves surrounded by needles, feces and rotting trash. Wade in the river to fish on a warm summer evening, just make sure you do not have any cuts on your legs or feet.

Charnelle Wright November 5, 2019 - 9:40 am

The homeless encampments along the river needs to be removed and cleaned up and not allowed to return. The residents of these camps need to be told that they are trespassing and this won’t be tolerated. They can be given a choice of public assistance to redirect their lives or leave the community. This should not be allowed to continue. If New York was able to clean-up their homeless problem, Reno should be able to do as well.

Vicki Carlson November 5, 2019 - 8:32 am

Thank you Connie, very well said. Allowing the mentally ill and addicted to continue on this self-destructive path is not, I repeat, NOT conducive to their well-being.

Connie Citizo November 4, 2019 - 3:27 pm

I can see why there won’t be a resolution from viewing the photographs to this piece. Instead of focusing on the plight of the mentally ill and addicted in the community, the spotlight is on the masked protest people with vulgar language signs and some guy wearing a Trump hat. The mentally ill have always been marginalized, not accepted or helped adequately. This is a human issue, not a political one. The masked protest guys and the Trump guys are not helping or even understanding the complexity of mental illness.

Connie Citizo November 4, 2019 - 7:05 am

This particular problem is a drug and mental illness problem. Not only is it damaging the ecosystem, it is cruel and dangerous to allow people with mental illness of a biological or drug-induced nature to be on their own without the courts getting involved. Mentally ill people who live indoors can be placed on a 5150 hold when they are not caring for themselves or are endangering their lives or the lives of others. For some reason, free range mentally ill are allowed to run amok without recourse in Washoe County. Why certain groups think it is more kind to advocate for their right to destroy themselves outdoors is perplexing. They are actually harming this population by not forcing them into treatment and into the safety of living indoors.

John anderson November 4, 2019 - 3:33 am

I run the river trail 2x a week from Evans down to galetti in sparks. I don’t feel threatened one bit by the people along the river. They are trying to survive the best they can. Most are polite and courteous when you take the time to acknowledge their presence instead of ignoring them.

How would you feel if a group of people came walking through your neighborhood and stopped and hawked at you like you were in a zoo? Probably the first time many of this group has even walked the river. I hope this did open some eyes and helps people react in a favorable way to help the less fortunate people in our community.

But it will be just like all the volunteers that come around at Thansgiving and Christmas. Makes them feel like they did something good and tell all their friends all the good they did but then disappear for another year.

I hope this results in action instead of just a press release that makes it look like we really care. Way to much talk and very little action. Most of these people are here as a last result of survival. They need help not just more talk.

If so many people are concerned about the river trail why is it there is nobody using it? I very seldom meet anyone on my runs. To say they feel unsafe is ludicrous, how many people have been assaulted along the river in the last few years? I don’t think very many if none. As far as the camps, in my run at most there is less than 20 in like 4 miles.

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