Story and Video by Bob Conrad | Photos by Ty O’Neil
Reno’s largest homeless encampment was bulldozed today after weeks of city officials saying they would begin clearing the area near the Wells Avenue overpass.
They made good on their word, but not without generating confusion.
The area has been home to as many as 300 people in recent years. City officials have been giving those experiencing homelessness notice about the need to move when the Nevada Cares Campus opens. But the exact date and time was murky.
One individual on site this morning when city vehicles were rolling in said he was never told about the cleanup of the area.
Not true, said Antonio Gilmore with the city. “I personally gave you notification.”
The notices being handed out didn’t jibe with what city officials said earlier this week.
A copy shown to This Is Reno had the cleanup date as Monday, and multiple people were told the cleanup operation was to occur Wednesday. That too didn’t happen — instead, city spokesperson Jon Humbert said the date was not determined until Tuesday.
Legal observers with the Nevada ACLU, in addition to homeless advocates, said the different dates caused confusion.
“We are not intentionally deceiving people,” Humbert said.
Some at the site were in obvious distress about needing to move. With debris and shelters covering large parts of the area, the move was not an easy choice for everyone.
“Get the fuck out of my way,” one man screamed as people tried to help him move his belongings. He ultimately gathered his things and joined many making an exodus to the new campus.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said the city’s Mobile Outreach Safety Team should have been on hand to help. Reno police and city workers, instead, were there.
City public works staff helped those needing to move at the last minute with tents and other possessions being loaded into the back of city trucks.
One sophisticated shelter, recently vacated, was razed by a bulldozer. A number of mice scattered as the heavy equipment flattened the structure.
The city anticipates clearing the rest of the area in the coming weeks.
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 research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.