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Governor’s Bowl Park slated for permanent emergency homeless shelter

By Bob Conrad
People living in a homeless camp in downtown Reno had to vacate the area early June 3 as RPD moved in to clean the area. Image: Eric Marks

The Reno City Council next week is scheduled to consider a resolution for the purchase of Governor’s Bowl Park, at East 7th Street near the Spaghetti Bowl, to be used as regional shelter to house those experiencing homelessness.

“The region needs to move quickly to secure an alternative location for a new emergency homeless shelter site,” city staff said. “Local agency staff have identified the Governor’s Bowl Park as the preferred location. This site is ideally located, offers the space to accommodate adequate shelter capacity, and is properly zoned. Developing a regional shelter site at the location will benefit the entire region.”

The need is immediate since the 4th Street shelter, which opened a month ago, can only be used temporarily. 

“What we need to do is find a longer-term site that’s larger and more suitable for additional sheltering,” Arlo Stockham, the City of Reno’s acting assistant city manager, said in August. “We’re going to need to make some decisions around October time and start assembly of a new, larger facility then—or else winterize this facility, if we don’t have a longer-term site ready to go.”

The regional homeless advisory board, comprising county and city officials from Sparks and Reno, supports the use of Governor’s Bowl Park for the emergency shelter. 

“To expedite acquisition, the parties have tentatively agreed to reserve portions of the property that adjoin I-80 and I-580 for possible future freeway use,” Stockham said in a report to the homeless advisory board. “This leaves a somewhat smaller, but still adequate, site for future homeless facilities. Initial plans are for 46,000 [square feet] of shelter space, which reflects the estimated space needed to address impacts of COVID-19.”

If local governments purchase the site for the shelter, expected by year’s end, construction is anticipated to take about eight weeks. A special use permit for the project will take three months.

Homelessness increasing

Reno’s homeless population continues to grow. The region’s point-in-time count for 2020, which documents the region’s homeless population, shows a 76% increase in those experiencing homelessness in just one year. 

Evidence is aplenty. Tents and encampments are seen throughout the Reno area, especially along the Truckee River. 

According to the city, “459 individuals generally recreate during the day and stay overnight in parks, open spaces, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, and other locations, and are at higher risk of injury and possible exposure to and propagation of negative public health illnesses.”

It’s a problem affecting larger cities on the West Coast with low-paying jobs and unaffordable housing determined to be contributing factors.

“It’s really a longstanding challenge Reno has had—and we’re not alone,” Stockham said. “Cities all over the country are grappling with this. The homeless population is significant and expected to rise as a result of COVID. You add that to essentially doubling the space requirements—which is necessary for COVID safety—and cities all over the country are scrambling for emergency solutions.”

Homelessness in Nevada
SOURCE: https://www.usich.gov/homelessness-statistics/nv

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