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Our Town Reno: Motel Resident Shares Life In El Tavern Motel

A woman and a small dog sit on a bed inside a motel.
Our Town Reno
Joyce Cowdin, 60, sits on her bed at the El Tavern Motel with her dog, Aurora, where she's been living for two years.

60-year-old Joyce Cowdin lives at the El Tavern Motel in Reno. She used to work but is now in poor health, so her budget is tight. While some of the local motels have issues with drugs, crime, and bug infestations, they offer affordable housing for families, seniors and the working poor. In this audio postcard, Cowdin describes her living situation and says the motels are a safety net for many low income residents. 

Joyce Cowdin is a resident at the El Tavern Motel. She shares the motel room with a roommate and her dog. 

A view of the El Tavern Motel in Reno on a cloudy day.
Credit Our Town Reno
The El Tavern Motel on 4th Street in Reno, Nev.

Cowdin has been in between motels for some time. She used to live at the both the Donner Inn and the Carriage Inn, two motels that longer exist. This is her second time living at the El Tavern Motel.  

Cowdin tries to make her room as homey as possible. She's put up Christmas lights on top of her dresser, which she says is her "catch-all."

"Eventually, you know, I'd like to put up more pictures, get plants--except I don't get that much light for plants in here," she says. "But, for now it's home."

Cowdin's dog, Aurora, is a Shih Tzu, Cockapoo, Maltese, and Chihuahua mix. 

"She's my bedwarmer," Cowdin says. "She's the one who snuggles with me when I'm having a really bad day."

Cowdin says motels provide homes for people of all walks of life. 

"There's people who lived here who have worked at Tesla," she says. "There's people who live here who go to work everyday, and there's people who don't work, don't want to work."

Both Cowdin and her roommate live on disability, but Cowdin says she tries to stay busy. 

"I go and help my friend out, who's disabled,' she says. "I try to go out and be a good neighbor. Yes, I've had problems with some people, but we've always tried to resolve it." 

Cowdin says that without the motels, there would be "way more homeless". 

"We don't have the affordable housing," Codwin says. "The newest project they're going to be starting is all the way in South Reno, for affordable housing. It doesn't make it accessible for a lot of people to live there."

Read Our Town Reno's original story on Joyce Cowdin

This story was produced by Our Town Reno, a multimedia street reporting project run by the Reynolds School of Journalism. In partnership with KUNR, Our Town Reno is hosting a series of live journalism events focused on homelessness. The next one is Thursday at 5 pm at the Desert Rose Inn. Learn more here.




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