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Report gives new recommendations on the region’s homeless crisis

By Bob Conrad

Local homeless advocates last week presented research findings and recommendations about the region’s homeless crisis. A whitepaper was presented to a packed house at The Holland Project.

The report’s authors are Lily Baran, an advocate and policy associate with the ACLU of Nevada, Katie Colling, co-founder of the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality, and Monica DuPea with the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project. 

“The purpose of this was to analyze some of the interventions that our region has used to combat homelessness,” Baran said. “There have been many different interventions; however, all of them vary in cost which doesn’t necessarily match up to quality.”

The group started with the figure of the county’s 875% increase in homelessness since 2017, which Baran called “the most stark number.”

The report notes that more than 400 people, after the opening of the massive Nevada Cares Campus shelter, are still sleeping outside. Most of those, Colling added, are people who do not want to be living outside.

Baran also cited This Is Reno reporting of the region’s consistently growing homeless death count. As reported earlier this month, there are nearly as many people, considered indigent according to Washoe County, who have died in the first half of 2022 as all of 2021

And that number continues to grow despite the interventions by government agencies. 

The group also broke out the cost per bed, per year. Topping the list is the Cares Campus at $25,000 per person while the Our Place shelter is just over $9,900 and the Village on Sage Street is $1,102. The Eddy House is about $14,700. NYEP is about $12,800.

Baran noted that the Cares Campus “does not have things to support life-sustaining activities like plumbing and running water.” She suggested giving each person staying at the campus $25,000, instead, could have reduced the number of people staying there.

“It would have been a better use of our money to hand people $25,000 each,” she said.

Recommendations

Lily Baran speaks about the new homelessness white paper on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022 at The Holland Project. Katie Colling is at left. Image: Bob Conrad / THIS IS RENO.
Lily Baran speaks about the new homelessness white paper on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022 at The Holland Project. Katie Colling is at left. Image: Bob Conrad / THIS IS RENO.

Baran said the report is meant for both advocates and policy makers. Only one elected official, from Sparks, attended the meeting.

Some of the recommendations include adequate pay for staff working at local shelters, creating better-tailored programs to address the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness

“I would say conflict resolution, communication skills and deescalation [training],” Colling said. 

A housing specialist that could work with housed people in danger of becoming homeless is also a recommendation. They also said local churches could provide “community-based living arrangements” and the purchase of vacant lots, where food can be grown on site, for potential co-housing options.

They also recommended a housing advocacy union.

“We need to be way better organized,” Baran said. “The Cares Campus is [topping] $60 million and we have none of these things.”

There’s no silver bullet.

“Each person’s situation is unique,” the report notes. “Understanding whether someone’s barrier to housing is a skill deficit, a personal problem, or a negative attitude is key to selecting the most appropriate resources and methods to help them.”

Housing, however, is critical, they said.

“Having a home is one of the most important stabilizing factors,” the report notes.

DuPea said, however, “we have no back door to the shelter. We have a front door where people can go in, but they have no way to get out. It’s kind of ridiculous to think someone’s going to go from zero dollars a month to $1,600 a month.” 

Read the report here: https://washoehousingjusticeunion.org

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