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Reno Eyes Local Park For Emergency Homeless Shelter

About 20 men are standing on a sidewalk, some have backpacks and there is a blue bike. There is a large white tent behind them.
Isaac Hoops
Unsheltered individuals line up waiting to be let into the temporary shelter on 4th Street in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday, Aug. 26.

The Reno City Council has approved the use of a local park as the location for an emergency homeless shelter. As KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck reports, the city is looking for more space to maintain social distancing, especially as winter approaches.

66-year old Greg Rubenau has been sleeping in one of the three large tents that make up the temporary shelter on 4th Street in Reno.

A close up of an older man with piercing blue eyes.
Credit Isaac Hoops
Greg Rubenau at the temporary shelter on 4th Street in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Except for cold showers and wishing for better food, Rubenau doesn’t have many complaints. Although, he says the tents get cold at night.

“There's no heat in there because in the morning it gets really cold in there, about two o'clock in the morning. The air just blows through there and you really can't stay warm,” Rubenau said.

According to city officials, roughly 170 men sleep in the tents off 4th Street every night. But it’s not enough. Current estimates suggest there are about 1,000 unsheltered individuals in Washoe County, and that number has grown during the pandemic.

When the three tents were erected last month, they were meant to be a quick fix. But the city will ultimately need more space as the weather begins to turn colder, especially if social distancing is required. But, Reno’s Acting Assistant City Manager Arlo Stockham, said the city continually runs into opposition whenever they look for a new space for a shelter.

Gray walls, mismatched black and gray beds spaced out fix feet apart on top of mismatched black and gray square tiles. There is a trash bag on each bed.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
Inside of one of the three tents at the temporary shelter on 4th Street in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Bedding is inside of the trash bags. The site is cleaned daily.

“We're doing everything we can, but long term, ultimately, we need roofs over people's heads of sufficient size to accommodate the people in need,” Stockham said.

But city officials believe they may have found an appropriate location for a new shelter, Governor’s Bowl Park, a baseball and softball field in Reno. Stockham said the site seems optimal.

“We can't really find anywhere better than this general vicinity. The Governor's Bowl especially, it's bordered on two and a half sides by [the] freeway. It's got industrial uses on the other side. It's safe. It's zoned appropriately. There's really very few areas in the city that are zoned for this and are close enough to services,” Stockham said.

Stockham says the city hopes to have the site open as early as the new year.

EDITORS NOTE: When this story originally aired, it said the Reno City Council would take up whether to use Governor's Bowl Park as a new emergency homeless sheter during their next meeting. However, the city council approved the measure duing a special meeting a day before the story aired.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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