The understaffed and unsafe Cares Campus is getting the support a consultant last year said was needed in order for the giant homeless shelter to be safe.
“The campus is understaffed, overwhelmed and the provider is unable to do much more than deescalate conflicts and keep track of who is using the facility,” consultant Jon DeCarmine said in November. “The current environment is unsafe.”
A new supervisor, bringing the total to four, started yesterday and job offers for 17 case managers are being made, according to Washoe County’s Dana Searcy.
“I will add, mental health counselors are hard to come by, so if anybody knows of anyone out there who really wants a challenge, this is it,” Searcy yesterday told the Community Homelessness Advisory Board. The board comprises local elected officials from Sparks, Reno and Washoe County.
“We, on Friday, moved our safe camp out of our garage and back over into the mod pods. They are all now in there and decorating and having fun,” Searcy said of those living in tiny heated shacks at the campus. “So that was pretty exciting for the team on Friday.”
The mod-pods replaced tents that originally were setup at the safe camp portion of the campus but were ruined by weather conditions. More than 50 people were living in garages.
Searcy said the county is focused on what she called “the lasagna idea” for medical support at the campus. There have been upwards of a dozen calls for service each day to the campus for medical and crime-related issues.
“So very much like the lasagna idea, what we’re working through is a layered approach for medical support,” Searcy said. “So how do we get this lift off of Reno Fire, and REMSA, really, and our Sheriff’s Office as well. We’re bringing on a temporary building that will be dedicated just for like a clinic atmosphere, I mean, again, not running water, and all of that, but just for medical support.”
A dedicated nurse phone line is being established.
“If we can get to a nurse who can help us quickly triage, they may be able to say this is not an emergency call,” Searcy said. “They might be able to say, ‘send an ambulance, but save Reno Fire the trip,’ that kind of thing.”
“Our tax system is broken”
Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon said much of the region’s homeless crisis is attributed to Nevada’s tax system, which she called broken.
“The reality is that our tax structure is broken, and that it all kind of goes back to our tax structure being broken,” she said. “Until we start swimming in that direction, as a region saying that holistically needs to be fixed, we are going to be in this perpetual boom-bust sort of scenario, and we’re going to be reacting.”
Jardon said Sparks, Reno and Washoe County need to approach the legislature for fixes.
“We are a beautiful region, people love to come here, we give great incentives to many, many large businesses [but] none of those incentives are balanced with an understanding that they will assist with the housing, productivity and building,” she added. “I’m just going to put that out there as a fiscal conservative, our tax structure is just horrifically broken.”
Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill said she shared Jardon’s concerns.
“Councilman Jardon, that excites me because the [Washoe County] commission definitely wants to take an active role in the next legislative session,” she said. “This is the time when we’re planning what our strategy will be, and I think if all three jurisdictions came together with something, [with] a proposal to the state, I think it would be quite successful.”
Board ends monthly meetings
CHAB board members debated whether to continue to meet and at what frequency. The board was started in 2018 and, according to its bylaws, has to meet at least quarterly.
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey said he wanted to reduce meetings from monthly to quarterly.
“[County staff] need to be spending time, instead of putting meetings together, focusing on the issue itself,” he said. “An advisory board is only beneficial to build a foundation, which we’ve done, and we’ve done a phenomenal job at that.”
Hill also said she wanted staff to have more time away from meetings.
“I do like the idea of coming back together in June, seeing where we’re at putting together a schedule then,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to switch to a quarterly schedule.
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 in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.