Along the Truckee River, on the Sparks side, behind a building where dogs are trained for security purposes is the informal River Rats Association.
Kenny, who introduced himself as El Presidente of the River Rats Association, lives in a camouflage tent and uses a smart phone to stay up to date with the weather. He says he also likes to use his phone to keep track of bird migration patterns.
Jimbo, another member of the River Rats, says he has been homeless off and on for 12 years. He explained that there are three rules he lives by: don’t steal, pick up garbage, and stay out of sight.
Staying out of sight and picking up garbage are pivotal to living outside, Jimbo explained, because any sight of settlement he says is a red flag to police officers and other security.
Jimbo says people from California recently came to live along the river as well, leaving trash and also stealing from others.
Deb says it's difficult to find affordable housing, especially with more and more down payments and paperwork being required. She often parks near the River Rats encampment area.
Jimbo said he made sure he picked up his own trash, not to be seen as nuisance or to give police any reason to bother or evict the group. They all seemed to prefer living on their own, whether in a truck or in a tent, rather than going to the shelters.
Photos and Story by Jacob Jacoby for Our Town Reno