Audio, text and photos by Pierce Baker
Even though the weather is starting to warm up, Reno residents and especially its most vulnerable, have certainly endured some cold nights and even days this winter. At night, recovering addicts and homeless are given the opportunity to stay warm at the faith-based Reno Sparks Gospel Mission in downtown Reno. Pierce Baker went to the mission and has this multimedia report.
Paul Parent, the food manager for the program located on Timber Way and Valley Road, works daily to provide service to thousands of people per week.
Parent used to be homeless and is a recovering drug addict.
“We only service 18 and up, because you need to be legal to sign a contract," Parent said. "But we do have volunteers here that are younger. And what we do here is we feed 1,200 people a day.”
The dining room in which Dave works in houses about 20 volunteers. Reno Sparks Gospel Mission has around 120 volunteers in total.
Debbie Smalls who sits outside the shelter daily and gets food and shelter wishes the Reno Sparks Gospel Mission could do even more.
“I mean we are out here in the cold, the rain and the snow," Smalls said. "They let us go in there sometimes but it usually has to be below 32 degrees before they even let us in the shelters.”
Appreciation for the Mission
Yet, not all people who come feel this way.
Nancy, who also routinely comes to the shelter to eat and sleep, shares her appreciation for the program.
“Well, I work everyday but it is freezing in the morning but they do give us three meals a day and are very accommodating-giving us hygiene products and keeping us safe for the most part. They do what they can to keep us off the streets,” Nancy said.
As for John, who also only wanted his first name used, the shelter is the only place where he can stay. He’s been homeless for the past two months,
“Around here at the shelter, we can only sleep from 8 PM to 4 AM and then after that we are pretty much out at 7 AM, we don’t have anywhere else to go except for here or go look for a job,” John said.
At around 5 PM each day, volunteers including Dave, serve dinner.
Dave explains you have to sign a contract and participate in sermons to get access to the shelter’s help.
“This is totally voluntary, it’s 13-15 months," Dave said. "It is quite a long program and we just ask them if they want help then they can come. If they don’t want help, we don’t want them here. These beds are meant for people who want help.”
The Gospel Mission welcomes new volunteers and suggest they drop by or call their downtown office to begin the process of giving back to those most in need.
Photos, text and audio by Pierce Baker