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Cares Campus safety questioned again by homeless advisory board

By Bob Conrad

The ability of the region to safely house the unsheltered as winter weather arrives was again questioned at today’s regional community homeless advisory board (CHAB) meeting.

The CHAB comprises local elected officials. The CHAB’s meeting last month had dire warnings about the ability of the Nevada Cares Campus to safely house the Reno area’s unsheltered population.

A consultant said safety and security were major concerns primarily because of a lack of adequate staff at the facility, which was quickly built and opened in May.

Washoe County’s Dana Searcy said the county is looking to hire a number of new staff, including 14 new front-line staff,two administrative staff, 21 new case managers and six counselors.

Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon questioned the campus’ safety particularly for women.

The county’s head of security said the county has not received reports of women being targeted and he meets weekly with the sheriff’s office and on-site security.

“I’m sure that some people are the victims of things that we don’t necessarily get reported to us, but we are open and available for any of those reports to get made to security,” said Ben West, Washoe County’s security administrator.

Records obtained by This Is Reno show the campus gets up to a dozen calls for service a day. Most are for REMSA emergency services, but others include trespassing, fights, sexual assaults and suicide attempts.

West said those complaints are investigated and most have not been substantiated. The CHAB members said the process to make reports should be done in a way that protects those who believe they have been victimized.

“We have to address [security concerns],” Jardon said.

Pat Cashell with the Volunteers of America said a rocky road remains for the campus.

“Safety is a concern of mine,” he said. “Until we get it fully staffed, safety is a big concern.”

A row of tents at the Nevada Cares Campus safe camp area is available for people to move into after an intake process by Karma Box Project.
A row of tents at the Nevada Cares Campus safe camp will be moved into a heated garage at the campus. Video Still: Abby Ocampo / This Is Reno

Mod pods delayed

The campus’ safe camp mod pods, which were to replace tents and were anticipated to be installed in late November, have not arrived.

“They are made and are sitting in a warehouse in Portland,” Searcy said. “Our trouble is trucking. We’re still hoping that those are not too far out.”

Searcy said the Karma Box Project, which operates the safe camp area, will move the existing tents into a heated garage building at the campus. Searcy also said there was a lot of excitement about getting the bowl area of the campus converted into a permanent safe camp area.

Low-income housing still missing

County officials, however, emphasized what they considered were the “wonderful things” at the campus.

Searcy said that 60% of the people going to the campus are moving out into permanent housing.

“This is an enormous number,” Searcy said. “They are not returning to the streets. We’re also seeing that 75% of this initial set of individuals that have moved out, moved out within two months of being there. That’s very encouraging numbers, and we hope to see that continue.”

Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson said homelessness will persist until there is more low-income housing in the area.

Former shelter’s sale removed from city meeting agenda

Jardon today announced a proposed sale of the former Record Street shelter was removed from Wednesday’s city council agenda to give more time to explore its potential use.

“In response to some of the conversations and concerns, the item of the sale of Record Street is getting pulled from Wednesday’s agenda,” she said.

Jardon asked Searcy if they would support the city re-using the shelter.

County officials, in response, said they only learned about the potential sale of the property last week.

County Manager Eric Brown said he would need to consult with the CHAB members and will “need to find out more about it.”

Reno City Council members discussed the sale of the Community Assistance Center on Record Street at a March council meeting. Reno historian Alicia Barber also weighed in on the potential sale preceding that meeting, noting that the city could be eyeing redevelopment in that part of downtown.

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