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More details released on homeless camp cleanups


By Kristen Hackbarth and Bob Conrad

The City of Reno today released more details about upcoming homeless camp cleanups, one day after refusing to disclose specifics. 

Following the zone concept developed earlier this year, zone 2–from Kuenzli to the Wells overpass along the Truckee River and Commercial Row–will be the next cleanup site. The cleanup and sweep is scheduled at the site Thursday, May 20 at 8 a.m.

City spokesperson Jon Humbert said the site will only be open to media and observers for an hour before the site is closed and access is restricted. 

Reno Police officers prevented journalists from entering a homeless camp clean-up site. Officers demanded we leave the scene. Image: Bob Conrad.
Reno Police officers prevented journalists from entering a homeless camp clean-up site on June 3, 2020 in downtown Reno. Officers demanded we leave the scene. Image: Bob Conrad.

The same scenario occurred last year, and Reno Police Officer Ryan Gott was witnessed terrorizing people in tents for not moving out fast enough. This occurred after the news media and legal observers were kicked off the site.

“For both the public and the media, these closures are considered the exact same as a fire line, police crime tape, or construction zone,” Humbert claimed. On Monday he said the sites are more dangerous than a murder scene. 

This statement was called “incredibly problematic and dehumanizing” by homeless advocates, who say that City of Reno officials have been vague and uncooperative with them in how the sweeps will be conducted. 

“The City’s sense of urgency without having all the pieces in place and poor/misleading communication makes for a traumatizing and disorganized mess for affected folks left in a constant state of limbo,” said Meagan O’Farrell, who works with local advocates to provide assistance to people experiencing homelessness. “It also leaves folks who have been collaborating and doing outreach out of the loop, frantically scrambling to support our vulnerable neighbors any way they can.”

A number of people at the Wells Avenue encampment were moving today in advance of the sweeps — however, dozens of camps were still there along with RVs and numerous tents. 

The Cares Campus’ safe camp site isn’t planned to be open for a month or longer, and once open will only have space for 50 tents.

O’Farrell also said that the Cares Campus shelter isn’t a viable option for many, and, without the safe camp space open, people leaving existing camps have few options. With the City indicating that ticketing will soon begin for people camping downtown, she added that the timing of operations leaves “folks to be criminalized for camping while they wait for a safe space.”

A bulldozer was brought in to clean up the site of a homeless encampment in downtown Reno on June 3, 2020.
Image: Isaac Hoops

Crews involved in the cleanups expect operations to take one day at each site. Based on the estimated schedule, which is still not firm, zone 3 will be targeted for cleanup next week, and zones 4 through 11 each week thereafter. 

Written or verbal notifications to those living at the zone 3 site, the Wells overpass to Sutro Street bridge, have already begun, according to Humbert.

Meanwhile, 237 people stayed at the Nevada Cares Campus on Monday for its first full night of operation. More individuals, including veterans and those from bridge housing, will be transitioned to the new shelter this week. 

Here’s a look at the City’s zone list, which runs along the Truckee River corridor:

  • Zone 1: Lake Street bridge east to Kuenzli Street bridge
  • Zone 2: Kuenzli Street bridge to Wells overpass
  • Zone 3: Wells overpass to Sutro Street bridge
  • Zone 4: Sutro Street bridge to John Champion Park
  • Zone 5: John Champion Park to Kietzke Lane bridge
  • Zone 6: Kietzke Lane bridge to Galletti Way
  • Zone 7: Galletti Way to the East Second Street bridge
  • Zone 8: East Second Street bridge to Greg Street bridge
  • Zone 9: Greg Street bridge to South Rock Blvd. bridge
  • Zone 10: South Rock Blvd. bridge to North Edison Way
  • Zone 11: North Edison Way to South McCarran Blvd.
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