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RISE Clean & Safe program provides council with six-month update

By Kelsey Penrose
Published: Last Updated on

Reno City Council in February approved an 18-month contract with RISE to conduct outreach for the Clean & Safe program. In April, an update was provided regarding weekly “huddles,” community relations, resource deployment and more. 

On Wednesday, Council heard a six-month update to see how the program was moving along as requested during the February meeting. 

The goal of the Clean & Safe program is to improve equitable access to public space through a collaborative approach to outreach with our unsheltered neighbors to promote community health and public safety. 

Within the Clean & Safe program are four main tenets: education, outreach, enforcement and restoration.

RISE falls under the outreach category, along with the Karma Box Project, Join Together Northern Nevada and the Downtown Reno Partnership. 

From March through July the RISE outreach team provided 1,881 unique services to 70 individuals. Of those, 12 individuals transitioned to the OUR Place shelter, two transitioned to the OUR Place Senior Home, two transitioned to the Eddy House shelter for teens and young adults, and nine people moved into variety of other centers and programs such as Mens’ CrossRoads program, Village on Sage and Life Change Center. 

“I wanted to share two of the stories of people we’ve helped,” said Antonio Gilmore of the Clean & Safe team. “This is very hard work, and it is essential for us to have partners such as RISE to assist us along the way.”

The first story involves an individual referred to as “S.”

“We met S through one of the community advocates. He was unsheltered for 35 years,” said Gilmore. “It took us five months to get him housed.” 

S recently transitioned into his own apartment.

“On the drive to his apartment he stated, ‘I never want to be homeless again,’” said Gilmore. 

The second story involves an individual referred to as “A.” 

A was unsheltered for 10 years. She slept near the court building and spent her days at Barbara Bennett Park. 

“We gained her trust after numerous days of doing outreach, and one day she asked for our help,” Gilmore said. 

A tiny house at Hope Springs, the transitional housing program operated by Northern Nevada HOPES.
A tiny house at Hope Springs, the transitional housing program operated by Northern Nevada HOPES. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno

Eventually, A, along with her dog Kika, moved into Hope Springs, a tiny homes village with wraparound services operated by Northern Nevada HOPES. 

“She became like family to the team,” said Gilmore.

Last month, A graduated from Hope Springs, and Gilmore said he and the team were honored to be invited to her graduation. 

A has also now transitioned to her own apartment and continues to check in with the team regularly. 

“These are a couple examples of the people we come across on a daily basis,” said Gilmore. “Most of these situations take a lot of time and effort and we can’t do this alone. While we do our best to help as many as possible, some people require intensive outreach, and our partnership with RISE is helping with the most service-resistant of the sheltered community.” 

Ben Castro, Executive Director and Founder of RISE, said he was very happy to report back that the program is working. 

“This team has embraced us with open arms,” said Castro. “They’ve been nothing but flexible, supportive, collaborative, and we really appreciate their leadership and partnership as we continue to grow.” 

Castro outlined some milestones of the project thus far, which included 24 housing arrangements, 31 identification replacements, one family reunification and 29 resources assessed. 

“While 24 might seem like a small number, I really need to emphasize here that these here are some of the most service-resistant individuals within our community,” said Castro. “The reason they are the most service-resistant is because they are the most traumatized individuals in our community. They have distrust issues for a reason, because they’ve been let down before, whether it be by other service providers, by law enforcement, their families…getting them to trust again is no easy task and I’m extremely proud of our team to be able to motivate them and activate their desire for change.”

RISE Executive Director Ben Castro speaks at a community event in 2017. Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Castro also highlighted several individuals the team has helped in the past six months. 

The first was “M,” who was living under a tree in the area of North McCarran Boulevard. 

“When we met M, they were under this tree quietly sobbing to themselves,” said Castro. “We happened to be in the right place at the right time.” 

After an hour or so of discussing options with M, the team asked if they wanted to go right then, and M agreed. When the team asked if M wanted to take any of their belongings, M said, “No, I want to leave that life behind me.”

The team took M to Reno Behavioral Health and sat with them during the entirety of the intake process. 

Ten days later, the team received a text message from M, who stated they had been placed in welfare housing and wanted the team to come visit. 

“They looked amazing,” said Castro. “They told us they had prayed for us, and that we had saved their life that day.” 

Another story Castro told was about “CJ.” 

“When we talk about drops in a bucket, this individual is the whole gallon,” said Castro. 

Castro stated that CJ had been open to services for some time, but the issue was that there are very few service providers that can meet the level of need required, and therefore, they were not program-qualified. 

CJ had been living beneath a tree in Pickett Park for some time in a cycle between the hospital and homelessness. 

“It took six months to get us where we are today for CJ,” said Castro. “CJ is no longer in this park, and we are very close to getting them properly referred to a nursing home that can meet their level of care.” 

The final story Castro told the council was regarding siblings “JP” and “R.”

JP suffers from substance abuse issues while R is developmentally disabled. They were living beneath bushes in the Summit Ridge area. 

JP would not go into any facility without R, said Castro. 

“They were inseparable.” 

It took many months coordinating with the pair, and after five months, they were both placed within a sober-living transitional facility. 

Unfortunately soon after, R was discharged because the level of care needed was higher than what the provider could offer. However, JP understood that the best way to serve R was to serve the program, get stabilized, get independent housing, and that would be the best way to take care of R, said Castro. 

“JP told us that they felt a lot better with R being outside knowing we were there to support them,” said Castro. 

Castro outlined what they could expect in the next 12 months moving forward within the program, including introducing new technologies in the field, expanding community trust through peer-to-peer engagement and increasing community resource liaison referrals. 

Mayor Schieve commended the work Castro and RISE have accomplished, and responded to general criticism aimed at the city and the program. 

“There are a lot of people who like to criticize – whether it’s on Facebook or Instagram – of us, of what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s really easy to do. But you’re doing the work every day, and you’re making it happen,” Schieve said. “It’s easy to criticize and be judgemental, but Ben, you talk the talk and walk the walk.” 

The council offered words of support and praise, stating that RISE had accumulated a positive reputation amongst service providers in the region.

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