Nearly 4,000 people in Reno are living in motels, according to the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless. KUNR’s Stephanie Serrano sat down with Nico Colombant to talk about what homelessness looks like in this community. Colombant is an instructor at the Reynolds School of Journalism and the lead organizer of Our Town Reno, a street reporting organization which focuses on exposing the revolving issues of homelessness in Reno, Nevada.
Colombant says the organization’s purpose is to allow the person going through the crisis to speak on their own experience.
"At Our Town Reno, we believe every story is valuable, every single voice deserves to be heard. To look at different populations that don't necessarily get their voices or stories out there, in the mainstream media. And, to really focus on giving their perspectives, as Reno is changing, as Reno is re-branding, that it's important to also give the voice to the people that are being the most impacted."
According to Colombant, people assume shelters are the answer to solving the homeless issue, but in reality, some people don’t do well in that environment, so they prefer to live alongside the river. After interviewing several people, Colombant found many misconceptions following the homeless community.
"A lot of people think about the homeless problem that it's their problem that it's the city's problem, but fundamentally, it’s the problem of the person who is not well-housed. Also, it can happen to everyone and a lot of the people we interview it’s often a health situation which goes wrong, they can't pay the bills anymore and they fall into homelessness. A lot of the homeless are victims of severe trauma in their life."
Colombant says the organization is dedicated to share first-person stories in order to drive the community’s thoughts in a different direction and to think differently about the homeless population in Reno.
"Don't be afraid when you see a homeless person to talk to them for a few minutes, to give them a smile, to give them a hug. Don't be afraid when you walk by the motel to rather walk on the other side of the sidewalk, go into the motel for a second and say hello to one of your neighbors, the people who live in motels, the people who are homeless are part of our community. They are not a different community."
Our Town Reno’s upcoming event “Who Does The City Belong To?” is presented by KUNR, in association with AIR Media's Local Lore project and the Reynolds School of Journalism. The event will be held on Thursday, November 1 at the Desert Rose Inn. The event will feature a live discussion from motel residents from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.