At last week’s city council meeting, Washoe County Human Services Agency Director Amber Howell gave a presentation on what Washoe County entities are doing to decrease the homeless population in Reno and Sparks. Currently, 2,600 people are being housed at the Reno facility on Record Street, but there is an issue with overflow and safety issues with women, men and children being in such close proximity to each other.
Therefore, local government entities are working together to come up with an appropriate strategy to relocate women and families over to the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services (NNAMHS) campus on Galetti Way, believing that shifting certain populations will free up at least 220 beds over at the Record Street Reno location and give those underserved women and children a better chance for success at independent living.
“(Right now) you have a very diverse population of people under one roof so to speak,” Howell relayed at the Sparks City Council January 28 meeting. The hope is that segregating these populations will allow for individual intensive case management to help them get back on their feet again.
“Intensive case management really helps families and all populations be more successful when they leave a specific circumstance,” Howell says. “The goal is to have a warm hand-off when you leave the shelter in 90 days,” she adds.
Since Washoe County has a rapidly increasing number of seniors in the country, there is also a need for specialized care for Washoe County’s elderly people with dementia. Opening up the NNAMHS campus to seniors will
“Washoe County is the fastest growing county in the country for seniors. Right now, our Senior Daybreak program can hold 22 residents with dementia (or Alzheimer’s); this new one will host 75 people,” Howell says.
The group of buildings on 480 Galetti Way that were vacant since 2001 are currently in the process of being renovated. The new buildings will include houses for: families; women; senior adult daycare; those with post-partum stress; independent living and substance abuse rehab; young women; food pantry and commercial kitchen. A stand-alone enclosed daycare facility for children will also allow them to play and be kids in a safe, secure environment.
Washoe County, City of Sparks, and the City of Reno have been talking about this issue for years and formed the Community Homeless Advisory Board (CHAB) about a year and a half ago to come up with solutions. Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, who is heavily involved with churches and human services, acts as the board’s chair.
He doesn’t know the specific number of homeless people in Sparks, saying that being homeless means different things to different people.
“We’re in the middle of a study defining what homelessness is. We guesstimate that there are anywhere from 1,000-1,600 homeless people in the region, but people tend to move around. The ones who don’t want help will just leave and that’s hard to track,” Dahir says.
Top reasons people are homeless include: the cost of housing, a lack of income or being unemployed, being evicted, having no family to help support them, and/or being transient or a runaway.
When asked what Dahir thinks the number one cause of homelessness is, he believes it is mental disabilities.
“A need of homes- people could point to that pretty quickly, but I think it’s mental illness. That makes it to where families don’t want them to stay there,” he says.
Last year the Human Services Agency put up a tent in downtown Reno to help with the overflow, but it has just caused more congestion and issues.
“It’s an everyday-full situation. We want to get rid of that tent,” Howell says.
“If we have the finances and leadership to put towards solving this problem, then we’ll do whatever we can. It helps to have all entities working together. We want Washoe County to take the lead on this since they get the tax money from all of us, but they are making great progress in getting that new campus open.
“It is our job as a government to take care of people, but businesses and individuals should look at what they can do to help. This is a human issue, something that affects the whole community,” Dahir says. He is hopeful that people could start moving into the Galetti location before October.