A Collective Effort with a One of a Kind Volunteer
Wendy Wiglesworth, who slept for years along the Truckee River after fleeing a bad relationship, now helps others at night, volunteering at the overflow tent in the parking lot of Reno’s main downtown shelter.
“I do this because when I was homeless everybody really looked out for me and it's the least I can do because I would run around making sure everybody was sleeping safe at night and wake them up before the cops do so they don't have to go to jail for being homeless or sleeping. So … it's just something else to give back because I don't know, I have lots of hopes so they need more hope. So I have plenty,” Wendy said, explaining why she sometimes works both shifts at the tent, from 7:30 at night to 7:30 in the morning, which also involves lots of clean up.
On the night we caught up with her, she said there were about 100 people in the tent. Making this tent run is a group of effort, she explains. “ACTIONN got the tent and then the VOA … checks on it. The City of Reno supplies the cleaning supplies, like the gloves and masks, the bleach spray, the paper towels and Kleenex and enhanced sanitizer. And then we have a cleaning service for the towels and sometimes we have water. Sometimes people will bring by snacks and that's all donations,” Wiglesworth explains as to some of the components which go into the organization.
A Sisterly Anarchist Night Owl
“I'm a night owl anyways, so I would be awake at home and I'd rather be here awake, you know, knowing that it'll help people sleep,” Wiglesworth said. “So it just works. It's what I do. It's like my full time job.”
She deals with people being sick, or running away from others, or complaining about each other, all with a huge heart and street sense. She says no one is better than anyone else and that’s why she helps.
“It’s sad that we even have homeless people in the first place ,that we haven't like helped our brother and our sister. Like they're hungry. Like first of all, how did they even get here? Like people closing their doors on their family because of their choices… It sucks that we even have the situation just like hand in hand with the housing situation right now. It sucks that it's even there. It just sucks because it's still people. It's still someone's brother, mother, sister, daughter, uncle, whatever. “
Last Days of the Tent but not of Wiglesworth’s Impact
The tent will close end of March, even though it’s been full.
“We're full capacity every single night, with a wait list,” Wiglesworth said. “Be a part of your community. You don't like something, speak up. Otherwise no one will know,” she advises to others who see the problem of homelessness and the affordable housing crisis but don’t know where to start. “People, copy me to the fullest extent, be a copycat and do things for the greater good,” she advises more generally.
For those without shelter, what does she have to say to when the tent will close?
“If your family forgot you or you don't have family, I'm your family now and I won't forget,” she said before getting back to work, making sure everyone was getting as good a night’s sleep as possible.