"The waterways are free, they can’t govern that, they can't tell us what can be done along the river, that’s free land," Harry Bogart said on a recent sunny day in downtown Reno, feeding his two small dogs, as he pondered new anti-vagrancy ordinances which are being pushed by city council.
Who Does Land Belong To?
"God made that land, not the city," he said of the Truckee river banks. "They should not be able to take that away from us. As long as we are not causing problems, making it worse. If we aren’t hurting someone else, let us live our lives. That’s my opinion."
Harry, an Elko county native, once worked in a warehouse job in Reno on PVC pipes, but he says the company moved to Arizona without him. He worked for a while in hotel maintenance, but he says he needs surgery for neck and back problems to be able to work again, and he says he can't afford the procedures. As an Air Force veteran he says the local VA is trying to help him find housing, but for the time being his $700 of fixed income are not enough to afford rising local housing rates for even a motel room.
Avoiding Shelters and Hoping for Compassion
Like many homeless in Reno who are sometimes called "aid resistant" by local politicians, Harry avoids shelters and explains why: "Shelters are made for different kind of persons, people who are there have a prison mentality," he said. "They don't think along the lines of we could be working with each other. They work for themselves and they put you in a bad mood, put you in danger, I don't trust being in that environment, I can do better out here, that’s what I do," he said.
Harry speaks of violence at the shelters, and the presence of weapons. His dogs, which he walks every morning before the rush of traffic across downtown Reno, would not be allowed at the main shelter either, so that's a no-go for him.
"Not everyone that is homeless is a bad person," the country music and rock 'n' roll aficionado told Our Town Reno. "They may be homeless because they made mistakes, they made a wrong choice, or somewhere along the lines something went bad they couldn’t control or get over. Give us a chance. Give us an opportunity to be what we are. We are still Americans. We love this country and we are just trying to survive."
Photo, Audio and Reporting by Prince Nesta for Our Town Reno