Reno’s homeless shelters closed on March 21 because social distancing protocols could not be safely maintained. The City of Reno opened the downtown Reno Events Center to provide safer housing for approximately 400 people, but the increased complexity and cost of doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic is driving an anticipated budget deficit for shelter operators, that may well surpass $1 million.
Night to night, the now-closed Volunteers of America campus off 4th Street in Reno housed approximately 500 people. The VOA, through a nonprofit called ReStart, also provides permanent supportive housing and rehabilitation for 600 additional people experiencing homelessness, along with other services.
Linda Grace is the VOA’s regional development officer and said the budget deficit is around $750,000 and growing.
“Our expenses have skyrocketed around payroll: people being out, health care, dependent children, in addition to overtime,” Grace explained. “In addition, the demand for food supplies for shut-in seniors and families have grown beyond what we annually budget for, on top of supplies that we don't normally [have], such as gloves, masks, cleaning supplies, etc.”
Recently, Congress passed a $2 trillion novel coronavirus relief package that allocates $15.5 billion for grants to help homelessness assistance providers. Based on grant award criteria, the VOA shelters are well positioned to receive federal aid, though in the short term, Grace is working to raise money from donations because the timeline to actually receive federal aid is unknown.