Replacing Reno’s Homeless Shelter With A More Effective Model
by Paul D. White
Homelessness is not against the law in Reno, but ALL* of the following are:
• Sitting or lying down in public entryways • Urinating or defecating in public places • Illegally camping on public property and blocking sidewalks • Illegally camping anywhere on the banks of the River Truckee River • Possessing or using drugs, paraphernalia, or open-container alcohol • Possessing stolen property (including shopping carts) • Aggressive panhandling and disturbing the • Storing personal belongings in public places • Loitering and littering
*(Reno Municipal Code: Sections 8.08, 8.10, 8.12) *(Reno Municipal Code: Sections 8.08, 8.10, 8.12)
hold Institute 9480 Gateway Drive Suite 100o, NV 89521 (775) 685-820
I. Overview: A Misdiagnosis
Reno’s chronically homeless vagrants are living on the street by CHOICE —
NOT due to a lack of services or resources.
The only way to end Reno’s problems with the Reno’s Record Street homeless shelter is to “begin rightly” with an accurate diagnosis of the problems related to chronically homeless vagrants. Reno’s problem with homeless vagrants has been misdiagnosed for years as primarily a lack of services and resources. As a result, Reno has supported ineffective programs that have worsened the problem, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars in direct and indirect costs. The use of HUD funding to create and maintain the current homeless shelter mandates operating as “no-barrier or low- barrier housing,” more commonly known as “wet housing” where:
• Clients are permitted to continue using alcohol and drugs and are not drug tested.
• Clients are not required to seek employment or mental health counseling when it is needed.
• Clients are not required to pay anything for their shelter, nor are they required to help clean the facility.
By alternating three-month stays between the homeless shelter and the overflow warehouse, chronically homeless vagrants are able to remain in the facility indefinitely. The first Housing First “wet house” approach was implemented in the United States 26 years ago, but it has neither lowered homeless vagrant populations nor redeemed many lives. Reno’s wet house homeless shelter has simply geographically centralized the chronically homeless vagrants. Meanwhile, their population has increased, while Reno’s quality of life has decreased. Crime rates are higher and growing vagrancy threatens Reno’s future.
A. Chronically homeless vagrants are NOT “hungry.”
Every person living on the street has access to:
• 25 food pantries in the Reno/Sparks area managed by Food Bank of Northern Nevada, providing more food than any individual or family could eat
• Either $200 per month of free food stamps, and/or a mental or physical disability check ranging from $700-1,000 per month
• A variety of community organizations such as Gospel Mission and St. Vincent’s who regularly serve meals at their sites
B. Chronically homeless vagrants are NOT “trying to find work.”
The Reno area has over 20 employment agencies desperately seeking employees, and most businesses in town are currently hiring. A one-minute phone call and a 30-minute interview minimally result in a $400 to $600+ per week job almost immediately. As the Reno office of the Nevada Department of Employment recently stated on local television, “Anyone in Reno who ISN’T working, doesn’t WANT to work.”
C. Chronically homeless vagrants are NOT living on the street because there
is “no affordable housing.”
Using the earnings potential figures in Item B and with savings from four-to-six weeks of steady employment, chronically homeless-vagrants can choose between dozens of available rental rooms and apartments ($400 – $900 per month). Rentals are even more quickly attainable and affordable when sharing a residence with a working roommate.
D. Chronically homeless vagrants are NOT living on the street because “there are not enough mental health services or drug/alcohol treatment facilities.”
Mental Illness – The Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services recently stated that there would never be a situation where anyone seeking treatment for mental illness would be turned away. Services would be immediately provided.
Drugs/Alcohol – The Reno area has over 40 Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings per day, and more than a dozen inpatient facilities and sober living homes.
E. Chronically homeless vagrants are NOT living on the street because “the community doesn’t care about them.”
Chronically homeless vagrants are living on the street because they don’t care about the community that has made abundant, comprehensive services available to them. Spending more on chronically homeless vagrants who refuse to utilize readily available services is wasteful and an irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. While rejecting free community homeless services, chronically homeless vagrants choose to remain living on the street where they regularly violate City municipal code quality-of-life laws. Choosing to continue their lawbreaking lifestyles, they disproportionately utilize emergency services, spread filth and disease, negatively impact the downtown area, cost the city millions in annual tourism dollars, contribute nothing to building Reno’s future, and constitute a growing burden on Reno’s already troubled financial situation.
To be continued…………………