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Former Hollywood actor sues over treatment at low-income housing dorms on Sage Street

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Christian Seaborn, who was a resident at the Village on Sage Street, the low-income dorms near East Fourth Street, on Friday sued the Volunteers of America, the City of Reno and the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada. VOA runs the dorms.

Seaborn said that he was harassed and threatened for months at the Village, and staff did little to help protect him. He said he had a decent experience at the Village until one resident began threatening him, including the man saying he would cut Seaborn’s head off.

Seaborn, a former Hollywood actor who had stints with Mary Tyler Moore Productions and appeared on episodes of “Rhoda,” “WKRP in Cincinnati” and “Alice,” came to Reno at various points in his life. He said he worked at the bowling stadium for a while and continues to write and act when he can. Financial difficulties led to him becoming homeless, and he ended up being one of the early tenants after the Village opened. 

“I was one of the earlier tenants because I moved in on December 31, 2019,” he told This Is Reno. “The first two years were good. I mean, they were okay. Better than okay.”

The problems started in January of 2022 when the Village rented a unit to a man who, according to Seaborn, almost immediately made threatening and harassing statements to him. 

“Our staff work diligently to support the residents and address their needs to the best of their ability.” -Volunteers of America

“It specifies in [the rental agreement], I guess in accordance with Nevada state law, there will be no violence, no threatening violence amongst tenants [or] visitors to tenants,” he said. “It really spelled it out, and I signed it–everybody [did], including the guy who ultimately threatened me.”

He said the threats persisted for about 11 months, adding that, while staff appeared concerned about his complaints, they ultimately did not remove the threatening individual. Seaborn instead said he was told to file a police report and file for a protective order. He did both but said that put a bigger target on his back.

The harassment continued after filing for the protective order, which Seaborn said prompted him to complain to the police again. He said the police told him they couldn’t do anything. Seaborn said he went into hiding–he stayed at the local hotel–and, upon returning to the Village, discovered the harasser had moved.

“​​I didn’t find out from another tenant [for weeks] that he was gone,” Seaborn said.” I would have thought that even the polite, decent thing to do would have been to shoot me off an email saying, “He’s gone. It’s safe here again.”

VOA spokesperson Ana Bankert said VOA has to follow state laws to address such situations. She did not offer specifics and said she has to maintain confidentiality.

“VOA does not tolerate violence, harassment, or threats to lodgers on our premises,” she said. “We have policies and procedures we must follow to ensure that lodgers’ complaints are confidential for everyone’s protection. 

Village on Sage Street dorms. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno.

Village on Sage Street

The City of Reno (which donated 4 acres of land in downtown Reno), builders, the Volunteers of America and the Community Foundation helped build the Village on Sage Street. It opened in August 2019 at 300 Sage Street

The Village is bridge housing that is “a hand-up, not a handout” or a profit maker. Any single adult who passes a background check and has an income of approximately $1,200 to $3,270 per month meets the income qualifications for residency. The Village is at 100% capacity. Source: Community Foundation.

“Not to mention we must follow the state judicial laws and procedures, as well as maintain strict confidential information of what transpires between a management agent and lodgers,” she added. “Our staff work diligently to support the residents and address their needs to the best of their ability.” 

Seaborn said filing a lawsuit–which he wrote on his own behalf in Washoe County district court–was prompted by emotional distress, missed work and, in part because city officials and nonprofit officials would not respond to his complaints or a demand to settle the matter. He ultimately moved from the Village and now lives at the Nevada Cares Campus, the region’s massive homeless shelter, which is also operated by VOA. 

“I think the staff here is great,” he said of the campus. “I see many of them trying their best, and many of them [are] caring people.”

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
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. He is also a part time instructor at UNR and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.

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