Elected officials from Sparks, Reno and Washoe County on Monday said there is much to celebrate about the Nevada Cares Campus. That’s the massive homeless shelter that opened a year ago one Washoe County consultant said was unsafe and understaffed.
The officials, comprising the Community Homeless Advisory Board, said, however good things are happening.
“Everybody’s kind of been trying to keep the lights on and take care of everybody the best we could in emergency situations,” said Reno City Council member Neoma Jardon. “And now it’s just time to reconnect those fronts. And we have more tools in the toolbox to make it smoother and less fiscally and otherwise impactful.”
The board also voted to approve meeting quarterly, down from a monthly schedule.
The campus remains understaffed. Of identified positions, eight at Washoe County are still unfilled, and VOA still wants to hire 29 positions.
Washoe County’s Dana Searcy said the county is still focused on hiring more people.
“Our priorities are on staffing and training, safety and security, the facility and the construction efforts and also partnership development,” she said. “We’ve got new case management, mental health and medical support opportunities coming. I think the general atmosphere at the campus is much more hopeful.”
Searcy said the campus has seen more than 3,500 total people in the past year.
Officials presented data that show the campus serves more than 1,000 people a month. A disproportionate number of residents are those living with disabilities – fewer than half of those staying at the campus reported that they are disabled.
Of those staying at the campus, 80 people in the past three months have been placed into permanent housing, officials said. Prior to the past three months, the campus was seeing about 10 to 20 people getting housing after staying at the campus.
“All of this really leads us to that increased effort in reducing homelessness in our community through more efficient housing placements,” Searcy added.
New VOA leadership announced
New campus directors were announced at the meeting. Scott Benton of Sparks will take over for Pat Cashell, who left VOA last month. The assistant shelter director is Penny Adams. Both work for Volunteers of America, which operates the shelter.
“I’ve gotten to work hand in hand with the county for the last year bringing partners onto the campus which has been exhilarating,” Benton said. “Seeing the lives change into the participants of the shelter with the partnerships has just been such an honor.
“Serving in the role as the assistant director has prepared me to lead the shelter in the best direction.”
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.