Homeless Youth Hit Hard By Reno Housing Crunch

May 1, 2019

Tech companies moving in and creating a housing crunch is a familiar story in California. But it’s happening in Nevada too. With companies like Tesla operating near Reno now, locals say they’re getting priced out, and homeless youth are bearing the brunt. KUNR's Anh Gray has more.

The Eddy House is a cozy residential home in downtown Reno that’s been converted to a drop-in center for homeless youth. The facility has only been open for a few minutes and there’s already almost a dozen people there. They’re all being encouraged to participate in the morning’s workshop on renting an apartment. 

24-year-old Brian, who we’re identifying only by his first name to protect his privacy, says he was homeless in Reno for two years.

"Being caught out there, you see what’s going on there at night. Yeah, it’s not the place be, man," Brian said. "That’s one thing I could say: it’s not the place."

Brian says the Eddy House helped him get off the streets. It’s a program-intensive center, meaning it offers an array of support services and teaches life skills, like finding a job or a place to live. They currently serve nearly 700 homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 24 in Washoe County.

Executive Director Michele Gehr says the lack of affordable housing is making the problem of youth homelessness worse.

"They have no previous address; they don’t have a long enough work history; they don’t have a rental or credit history," Gehr explained. "It’s impossible, and without those support systems, you’re going to see an increase in homelessness, and youth homelessness, in particular.

The Reno Housing Authority provides federally subsidized housing for low-income people but priority is usually given to seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. The wait list has more than 3,000 individuals and families on it.

There’s also no overnight shelter specifically for young people in Reno, so many end up on the streets at night. Gehr says the shelters that are available are dangerous.

"They are preyed upon by adult homeless, and so they really try to avoid the adult homeless," Gehr said. "They have reported to us that they feel unsafe at the adult shelter."

The Eddy House plans to relocate to a 16,000-square-foot building near downtown by next fall. The new facility will have the capacity to offer overnight shelter beds to more than 50 homeless youth.

This story was produced in partnership with the California Report by KQED.