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Nevada Cares Campus faces continued staffing shortages and safety issues

The outside of a long, gray and tan industrial building.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Nevada CARES Campus, a homeless shelter in Washoe County, Nevada, on June 30, 2021.

Washoe County’s homeless shelter is facing staffing shortages and safety issues.

The Nevada Cares Campus opened almost six months ago and nearly 600 people sleep there on average. The shelter has continued to struggle with adequate staffing, like case managers.

“I think it would be generous to say there’s half of the staffing that is currently needed,” said Jon DeCarmine, the executive director of a large, low-barrier homeless shelter in Florida who has provided consulting for Washoe County’s shelter.

He presented a report to local officials in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County, which found that the lack of staffing makes it difficult to maintain a safe environment.

Dana Searcy with Washoe County explained what’s being seen on campus.

“We’re seeing REMSA called multiple times a day and law enforcement called multiple times a day for things that really should not escalate to the point of needing a 911 call, but our staff is so few right now that collecting things like data, or deescalating something that turns into a crisis, is just not possible,” Searcy said.

DeCarmine’s report also pointed out another issue. The Nevada Cares Campus isn’t supposed to be a final destination. The goal is to transition people experiencing homelessness into housing, but he said that’s not always happening.

“If people don’t have a place to go that they can afford, they will not be able to successfully exit the shelter,” DeCarmine said.

DeCarmine said if additional federal coronavirus relief funds become available, they should go toward finding creative ways to get people into housing, like forming relationships with local landlords. He also said the funding should go toward increasing staffing, and their pay.

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

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