By Jeri Chadwell | Video by Bob Conrad
Chris Pingree, building and safety manager for the City of Reno, walked members of the media around the sprawling Nevada Cares Campus on Friday afternoon. The new shelter facility for the region’s unsheltered population will open in phases beginning May 10.
This Is Reno was told on Tuesday by city officials that the shelter operator, Volunteers of America, would prioritize moving about 400 people currently residing in the temporary tent shelter on Fourth Street to the nearby Governor’s Bowl. That’s where the Cares Campus and its new, 46,000-square-foot shelter is located.
No one would be turned away, they said.
City officials and VOA Director Pat Cashell on Friday said that pets will not be allowed at first and clients will be moving in starting May 17.
The new shelter is equipped with lockers to store personal items and security cameras both inside and out. It can accommodate up to 900 people. Its accompanying facilities include dining areas where three meals a day will be served, onsite laundry, 26 private showers and 22 toilet stalls.
The campus will, at some point, also include safe camping space—something homelessness advocates point to as necessary for those who are not willing or ready to live within a shelter environment.
Local officials and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto were on hand for Friday’s walk-through of the new campus.
Cortez Masto thanked the cities of Reno and Sparks, Washoe County and Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office for their collaborative efforts to bring the Cares Campus to fruition—and Q&D construction for building the new facility—which was paid for in large part with CARES Act dollars.
“I am so pleased to have been in Washington to fight for the money through the CARES Act and so many other dollars that are important for COVID-relief funding to come into the state because of the pandemic,” Cortez Masto said. “Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in homelessness. And, so, as caring community members, it is important for us to address this issue. And that’s why the money that came in at the federal level is so important to get into our local communities.”
She said she would continue to fight for federal dollars to be allocated to Nevada but would demur to local jurisdictions on the projects for which they’re used.
“I can’t say this enough, for me it is important that the money I vote for and I fight for is utilized by the local officials working with the private sector and identifying the need,” Cortez Masto said. “You guys know better than we do, and it is so important that we give you the flexibility to be able to take care of the needs in our communities.”
Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon, who’s also chair of the Community Homelessness Advisory Board (CHAB), also touted the collaborative efforts leading to the Cares Campus.
“I think this is just indicative that nothing happens in a vacuum, and nothing happens by one entity or one individual,” she said. “It truly does happen by everybody coming together, identifying an issue and really coalescing behind it to help solve it.”
She said she was pleased that the campus will address the “three P’s” identified by local officials when considering a new shelter: pets, partners and property. And, eventually, the campus will accommodate all of these needs.
“As someone who is personally very passionate about this issue, I’ve looked forward to this day for many years. I am so proud to be standing here today at the Nevada Cares Campus in Reno, Nevada. This is the most unique, comprehensive campus in the nation,” Jardon said.
Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson credited the formation of the CHAB with the coming to fruition of the Cares Campus.
“On that board we have two representatives from Sparks, Reno and Washoe County,” he said. “We address the problem of homelessness; we learn about it, and when the opportunity arose with some CARES Act money, it was a no-brainer for all of us to say, ‘You know, this is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it.’ And we jumped all over it.”
Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill echoed Lawson’s sentiments on the CHAB and said the county is looking forward to the launching of the safe camping spot on the campus.
“I think it’s important for residents to know that there’s a tremendous amount of work that happens behind the scenes to address community issues,” Hill said. “And work groups like CHAB would not be successful if we did not have the collaborative will of elected officials and local leaders. Washoe County is proud to be a partner in the creation of the Nevada Cares Campus. And we look forward to the next step as we continually offer services here.”
Among those next steps will be considering a recommendation to transition responsibility for regional shelter operations from the City of Reno to Washoe County, which will occur July 1.