A complex that includes a new homeless shelter and acreage for social services is getting closer to reality.
Elected officials from Sparks, Reno and Washoe County today voted nearly unanimously to approve the purchase of the Governor’s Bowl as well as an adjacent property to serve the nearly 2,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Reno-Sparks area.
The complex will comprise 14 acres. A new 46,000 square-foot tent-like structure will be constructed on site starting early next year.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve called the complex a very comprehensive approach to addressing Reno’s rising homeless population. She called the agreement between the two cities and the county monumental.
“This is huge and it’s called a collaboration at its finest,” she said.
The complex is expected to provide services that currently prevent people from seeking help, such as serving couples, people with pets and those who simply do not want to be in a shelter. The new site could also host a “safe camp” section, something advocacy organizations are pushing.
Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson called the agreement a home run.
“Approving this action today will have deep, deep ramifications for this region,” he said.
Purchasing and developing the property will cost more than $86 million. Reno will pay 54%, Sparks will cover 22%, and Washoe County will cover about 24%.
The funding is coming from federal grants, CARES Act funding, the Reno Housing Authority and a half million in private donations.
Once constructed, Washoe County will assume a majority of the operations at 70%, or $5.6 million annually.
Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler questioned whether the county could afford to maintain the complex. She said citizens had been calling her all day to question the expenses.
Washoe County Manager Eric Brown said the majority of the costs will be covered by traditional funding sources. He said CARES Act funding will make up the difference; after that, additional funding sources will be needed.
Reno Councilmember Jenny Brekhus voted against the agreement since multiple agenda items were grouped into a single vote, something she objected to. Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman did not attend the meeting.
CORRECTION: This article was corrected to reflect Brekhus’ vote. The way the items were approved caused confusion, even among council members.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.