The Nevada Youth Empowerment Group (NYEP) just received a $3,000 grant from the Reno/Sparks Association of REALTORS (RSAR) to help fund the Wells Avenue Graffiti Removal initiative as part of the “Build a Better Block” program for the neighborhood and patrons.
Although the City of Reno helps cover up some of the graffiti, NYEP’s Executive Director Monica DuPea says that the monies from the grant will go towards purchasing high-powered equipment to help completely remove the markings.
“The city paints over it, but a lot of it is felt pen or stone on not only walls but sidewalks, light poles, and windows,” DuPea says. She added that they plan on purchasing the world’s best graffiti removal system which consists of fluid-based liquids that eradicates certain dyes. “The merchants have done an excellent job in covering it up and calling it in, but now they have someone to depend on,” says DuPea.
History of Wells and Its Gentrification
In the 1950s and 60s when the economy boomed, the city rezoned the area with big construction coming in and changing the environment of what was once all quaint cottages in the West Wells neighborhood. This inadvertently caused the region to lose its cohesiveness as absentee landlords rented out their places and failed to maintain upkeep of their properties.
Coinciding with the degeneration of the housing, the mom and pop stores shut down their businesses and were replaced with liquor stores and smoke shops which seemed to bring in criminal activity. But in the late 90s, residents started making a huge effort to restore the once-thriving commercial area to its original state. New businesses and families moved in, slowly changing the culture and environment.
In 2007, the City of Reno started working on a new master plan and began soliciting community feedback. A new band of residents that was in the midst of forming, the West of Wells (WOW) group, flooded the meetings with ideas and solutions to how Wells Avenue could be implemented into the new plan.
Over the last decade, WOW has been busy organizing community cleanups to plant flowers in mediums, install lighting, and even developed a preemptive crime prevention program with the help of local law enforcement. Since removing graffiti has been an ongoing challenge, WOW released this graffiti fact sheet:
Things Businesses and Homeowners Need to Know About Graffiti-
• The longer the graffiti is up the more it attracts other graffiti
• It is the owner’s responsibility to remove graffiti
• Not removing graffiti can result in fines from the City of Reno
• Promptly reporting graffiti discourages taggers and helps local law enforcement
• Graffiti removal kits are available
The US Small Business Administration states that a single act of vandalism of damaging or defacing property can cost a business owner around $3,370. Therefore, owners may raise prices to offset the costs of keeping their storefronts looking clean.
The efforts from WOW’s graffiti removal program resulted in a 30 percent crime reduction within a year.
How Nevada Youth Empowerment Group Helps
Established a decade ago, the NYEP is a local youth service provider that helps 18-21 year olds segue into adulthood that are parentless, homeless and/or aged out of their previous housing situations. Through NYEP, staff aides these emerging adults in finding employment, obtain housing, education, and practice good citizenry to hopefully keep them out of the welfare system.
With this $3k grant awarded by RSAR, NYEP will begin a 6-month graffiti cleanup program starting on Wells and branch out as money and time allows. Fifteen girls in the NYEP program along with six staff people, realtors, volunteers, and neighborhood watch will participate in the graffiti cleanup.
“We lucked out with this grant and we’re lucky to have the partnership with Wells,” DuPea says. “Crime was greatly reduced when graffiti is removed; I’m almost positive that it has made an impact on business,” she added. “But unfortunately graffiti is an ongoing problem like homelessness, so we have to keep it up.”