The Reno City Council today spent considerable time discussing the state of homeless services in the region, and council members said they want to see change.
Washoe County should take the lead role for providing services, including operation of the Nevada Cares Campus, the new structure being built off East Fourth Street. That was the general view expressed by councilmembers.
“I think the county is about ready to step up on this issue,” said City Manager Doug Thornley.
Acting Assistant City Manager Arlo Stockham cited NevadaRevised Statute when he said the county “has a duty to provide aid and relief to the indigent population. Under the law and taxation system we have, [the] county really should be the lead agency for all these homeless services and facilities, but over time that has not happened.”
The council voted to proceed with negotiations to transfer responsibility for services to Washoe County. It also voted to explore phase-two planning for the campus and to start discussions about ordinance changes that impact unsheltered individuals, such as camping, lying and sitting on sidewalks and locations where feeding sites are allowed.
With the campus anticipated to open in mid-April, questions loom about how the city will manage to get people to use the new shelter.
Police should not be involved with moving homeless people and trying to get them into service programs, Mayor Hillary Schieve said.
“I do not want police officers interacting with our homeless population in any capacity,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s humane.”
She was adamant, however, that people had to stop living along the Truckee River. She called for 24-7 monitoring to prevent people from camping there.
“I know people aren’t going to like it, and it’s unpopular whenever I say that, but it is dangerous. If we have a flood or a fire…we will lose hundreds of people who live along that river, and then people will be really angry with us…” she said. “The river is not a place to live — period. It’s dangerous. It’s our drinking water.”
Public commenters encouraged the council to engage with the homeless population and focus on their needs, particularly by providing housing. Council members responded that they are in the process of doing that.
Council members also briefly discussed sale of the Community Assistance Center on Record Street, but no decision was proposed on the matter.
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.