More than three months after opening a makeshift homeless shelter at the Reno Events Center and as the pace of coronavirus spread in Nevada has accelerated, officials will vacate the venue by Aug. 3, replacing the facility's 320-bed capacity with existing shelter space and a temporary campground.
Officials decided to close the facility and open a campsite along East Fourth Street during an emergency Community Homelessness Advisory Board (CHAB) meeting on Monday. The closure followed a notice from the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (RSCVA) to move out of the space because of upcoming events, CHAB Chairwoman and Reno Councilwoman Neoma Jardon told The Nevada Independent.
"This is not going to be the permanent solution, but this will help us as we are working towards what that permanent solution looks like and where that will afford some expanded services, extended stays," Jardon said. "We are fully aware that with some of the housing difficulties we have with COVID, with evictions, we are working hard as a region to help to meet some of ... sadly, those growing needs."
The closure of the Reno Events Center comes as COVID-19 cases increase and after Las Vegas shut down its Isolation and Quarantine Complex (ISO-Q), an acute observation facility serving members of Southern Nevada’s homeless population exposed to the coronavirus.
At the start of the pandemic, shelters in Reno were at or over capacity and unable to support safe, social distancing practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, requiring the opening of a shelter where people could stay and safely distance from one another, Jardon said. She added that the cold spell toward the end of March meant people needed a warm and safe place to stay sooner rather than later, and she and other organizers knew the events center was a temporary solution.
Individuals looking for shelter will be able to stay at the Community Assistance Center (CAC) campus on Record Street, a traditional shelter area with a capacity to host 135 people that features common areas and apartment units in addition to an overflow capacity of 40 people, according to a presentation Reno's Acting Assistant City Manager Arlo Stockham gave to CHAB on Monday.
The CAC shelter, which closed in March because it could not offer enough space for people staying there to socially distance, can reopen because the construction of Our Place, a shelter for women and families on Washington Street, addressed a need for more capacity, Jardon said.
Because the CAC does not have the same capacity as the events center, Stockham discussed how officials would open a temporary safe campsite at the East Fourth Street Meals site owned by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA). The site will be able to host around 165 people and will have sturdy tents for people to stay in as well as water, power and sewer service. Staff will also install shade canopies for day use.
In various meetings, CHAB board members have looked into the development of safe, sanitary campgrounds in Reno along with other housing solutions. Jardon said that the campground is not permanent, and officials are working on developing longer-term and larger facilities.
“I don't want anybody to get comfortable in thinking that some tent structures are appropriate in serving this population. They're not,” Jardon said. “We have to all be working diligently to figure out that longer-term expanded capacity and services goals, because it's gonna be winter really soon. And while the tents, you can have heat in them, that's not an ideal situation.”