While City Council Wednesday decided not to go ahead with a purchase of new land to help the chronically homeless, life at Reno's main downtown shelter was typical, with homeless, with mental illness and without, complaining of services, and struggling with addiction.
Shelter Challenges Involving Mental Disorders
Norma said she was going to try another shelter in Reno Wednesday after the incident she partly blames on her own drinking and not taking her usual medication.
Other homeless women at the shelter said they have concerns about how people with mental illness are treated there, and whether or not conditions are adequate for those suffering from mental illness. They said some of the people who are mentally ill scream or talk to themselves at night in their bed or in the shelter bathrooms, making the experience disruptive and uncomfortable for all.
According to recent numbers from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, up to a quarter of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness, which is much more than the overall population where latest figures are in the 6% range of Americans who are severely mentally ill.
While this was taking place at the shelter, at the Reno City Council and Redevelopment Agency Board Meeting, council members said they didn’t want to spend $350,000 of the city’s Community Development Block Grants to purchase new land. The idea being discussed was to develop a 30-unit housing project with aid services specifically for the chronically homeless.
Council members instead said the city should look at what it can do with properties and land it already owns.
A Land Purchase Proposal Initially Talked About with Praise
Earlier in the week, the proposal put forward by Reno’s community development director Aric Jensen to buy an 1.6-acre parcel near Hug High gathered lots of media attention and high praise from people working with the homeless.
But at Wednesday’s meeting, there were concerns the parcel was too expensive and too far from downtown services and hospitals.
Mayor Hillary Schieve said she thought it was more of a project for the Reno Housing Authority to take on. But she said she didn’t want the public to think the Council was not being supportive of new ideas to help the homeless. Neoma Jardon said some of the money could be used to improve the city’s secret overflow shelter, which as Our Town Reno has documented previously, has less than pristine conditions.
The discussions also come amid concerns proposed cuts in President Donald Trump’s budget could substantially reduce the $1.9 million Reno receives annually in Community Development Block Grants, money which has been used to help the homeless in northern Nevada.