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In the works: Transitional housing for inmates in Reno

The state broke ground Tuesday in Reno on a transitional housing facility for former inmates to help them successfully integrate back into the community. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that the project is funded by a unique revenue-sharing agreement between Nevada and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.

At a busy street corner in Reno, on land owned by the colony, tribal members began yesterday's ceremony by performing this traditional song. The colony, a combination of the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washo tribes, is swapping a 3-acre tract of land with the state to make way for a new $8 million Northern Nevada Transitional Housing facility that'll welcome about a hundred men and a dozen women fresh out of jail.

"What it provides for them is the ability and the opportunity to choose a pathway for employment, to be able to take care of themselves and their family, to be less, of course, considered a burden on society," explains Greg Cox, who directs the state department of corrections.

There are more than 400 transitional housing beds in Clark County, but Cox says that Reno's never had this type of programming, which offers education and job opportunities to its residents with the ultimate goal of lowering recidivism.

"What we have understood for many years now," Cox says, "is that these transitional housing centers provide that avenue and that ability to come back into the community, to reduce the amount of victims in these communities, but also to provide a level of supervision and enhance public safety."

Tuesday's groundbreaking is just one piece of a larger puzzle.

A decade ago, the state legislature approved a revenue-sharing agreement for sales tax coming from the Walmart Supercenter on East Second Street, which was eventually built on that tribal land in 2010. Part of that pot will pay for the new transitional housing project and part of it has already been going to the colony, which the group used for a community health center.

Starting next year, another chunk of those funds will go to the Washoe County School District which will receive half a million dollars annually from the agreement.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.