by Monica DuPea, Executive Director of the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project
Reno Needs All Types of Housing for Its Poor
120 – Emergency Shelter Beds and Professional Onsite Services
1000 – Senior Transitional Housing Units
1600 – Permanent Housing Units
Very Few Viable Housing Options
Many citizens complain about the blight and homelessness in downtown Reno.
A majority of those “hanging” in the streets are earning 30% or less of our Area Medium Income ($17,665 or less) of $58,883. Only 12% of these folks have even been able to find a viable housing option. And, our Shelter Director reports that we are 120 shelter beds short each night with a majority of 90% of these individuals suffering from mental illness and/or substance use.
Finding the Best Action Plan For Success
Not only will these folks need help with basic needs like rent and food assistance, but they will also require other professional services to ensure they are given the best action plan of success, like therapy, medical assisted treatment, medication management and accountability.
Without the piece to help people empower themselves with the skills and knowledge to drive and motivate their own lives, any external resources given will likely not sustain after assistance stops.
Helping the Poor Get Back on Track
It’s expensive and hard to help someone recondition themselves to be a contributor, thinker, doer. There are many false starts and ongoing challenges to overcome. This must be taken into consideration when developing housing for our poor.
Rent is generally set using Fair Market Value, but when you have a city where there is a shortage of housing and an expected boom in population, FMV can be much higher than housing assistance will cover. And, property owners prefer more established renters. They complain that the poor are more likely to be late on rent, damage property, be dirty, not supervise their children, move people in, vacate without notice, etc.
- Define Shelter as Emergency Shelter and add additional 120 beds and professional services.
- Additional shelter opened to serve as a Day Program.
- Defining the current shelter as an emergency shelter will also it to serve a specific purpose…to assess, stabilize and refer out for more appropriate and long term care. Opening the additional shelter would provide a housing based programming site for families/youth to stabilize in, so they can begin to get their footing back and build a life. When we have sufficient shelter beds, we should see a decrease in street homelessness.
- Develop a Land Trust Company to hold properties that serve as housing projects for our poor.
- Work with and only incentivize developers who are interested in setting aside significant number of units for our poor (30% or less of AMI).
- Consider alternative solutions like changing zoning/coding to allow more community style living environments that can accommodate larger groups of people for smaller costs. Or, look at how we can use our abandoned/foreclosed properties. There are also many kinds of tiny houses. We will need to innovate to address the amount of need we have with the resources available.