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.”
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.”
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.
Trevor Bexon has lived in Reno, Nevada since 2004. He believes Northern Nevada has a unique story that he hopes to share with others while leaving a visual history for future study.