Christian Montgomery, 40, gently asks for some money in downtown Reno on a hot, dry morning, trying to get money to buy some coffee. He’s going through a rough patch, having had lots of his possessions recently stolen from his shopping cart.
“There’s a group of people in Reno that goes around stealing people’s stuff. I was one of the unlucky people who got robbed. I’m down to nothing almost. At least they didn’t steal my Didgeridoo. My girlfriend is holding on to my cell phone so that doesn’t disappear."
What's Left In the Cart
Playing, Selling and Teaching the Didgeridoo
The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians. Christian plays the instrument, usually by the arches in downtown Reno. “It sounds like a low growl, with some barking in it. You do the circular breathing thing. It’s entrancing. I discovered it at a hippie shop as a kid, and liked it ever since.”
So-called first amendment artisans are not required to obtain a business license, but Christian says some officers think you need to get a sound permit. “That’s $35 but they’ll usually leave me alone. It’s up to them to decide if you’re a douchebag, or if they want to mess with you really.”
Back in His Hometown
He says he’s been living on the streets for about 10 years, previously in San Diego, the Bay Area and Portland and back in Reno for the past three years, where he was born and raised.
“Reno has everything other places on the West Coast have and more. I came to realize my hometown is probably one of the coolest places on the West Coast. There’s a ton of good people in Reno. There’s enough good people in Reno to help you get up and moving if you need help.”
He says he has some money saved, but doesn’t like renting out apartments or staying at the shelter, even though he says he’s been arrested a few times because of his situation.
Dreams of His Own Place
He says he’d like to buy his own lot or his own place if he finds something he can afford. In the meantime, he doesn’t understand why police don’t let him be at spots he finds usually not far from the Truckee river.
“You have people who don’t have homes, but they need to sleep too. You need a place to prepare your food. If you’re poor, you shouldn’t have to live like an animal. You should be able to sleep and be left alone, without being bothered. Usually anywhere you go, you eventually get bothered and run off.”
He understands though that when too many homeless congregate in one area, it doesn’t always work out well.
“You can’t just pee all over the place, and dump your garbage all over the place and expect it to look and smell nice and for people to be ok with that.”