Without Tools and Losing Contact with Family
Richard, 54, an Oklahoma native, who moved to the Reno/Sparks area as a child, has been living in his van for the past two years, picking hidden spots, mostly along the Truckee River.
“My plan was just stay in it until I could get a place, but at $10 an hour, for work I can find, you can't get a place,” he said.
He says he’s worked on building maintenance projects, but since he lost all his tools, it’s been harder for him to get the odd jobs he used to get.
He has two daughters, in their 20s, but difficulties with their mother, has cut him off. He says he misses not seeing them. He says he lost a lot in the divorce, but that at least his daughters are doing well.
”One's actually in college, so they're doing better than me,” he said.
Not Blaming Anyone, But Hoping for Higher Wages
“I'm not going to blame Tesla or anything like that for the rising costs, there's rising costs of living but you know, people got to make money, but also they're going to raise rent. They should raise pay,” Richard said, when asked about the affordable housing crisis sweeping the region. He says the problem has been getting worse and worse, but that he’s seen tent cities since the 1970s.
Fisherman’s Park is a place where day laborers are often picked up, so Richard says it’s a good place for him to hang out during the day, in case someone needs someone with his skill set. “It’s always been a place to get hired,” he said.
He says if you stay parked for a long time though, it’s important though, not to appear as if you are dealing drugs, or having people go in and out of your van.
“Being here, you would have to be here for like a week to see. I mean, they'll drive through,” Richard said of police. “If they see something, they'll stop. If they don't, they don't stop. They don't really bother us until they know there's illegal activities going on like drugs. Because I mean like somebody parked and there's a lot of people going to that vehicle and you know what I'm saying? They're not stupid. …”
Insecurities Along the River and Dreams of an Apartment
He says at night, conditions along the Truckee River are much different than during the day. He says there’s gamblers who have access to money who live along the river, but he says some lose everything to gambling.
“Sometimes bodies have turned up in the river,” he said. “If that happens then that person has to be passing through here. But you don't know who it is. So I mean, yeah, you're always at risk at here. You would have to be here at night to see some of the different things that go on. “
His message to those with shelter who don’t understand the hardships of living in a van?
“I would like to tell people out there that we're basically the same as them,” he said. “It's just we're having rougher times. We made different decisions. When I was young, I was told that experience will take me where I wanted , to be or needed to be and that wasn't true. So anytime I work with younger people, I tell them to stay in school. Something in that education can take you further than anything I'm ever going to get, because I'm 54 now.
He’s thought of going back to Oklahoma where his mother lives, but he feels Reno is home.
“I love Reno,” he said. “It pisses me off when people talk bad about Reno. If you don't like Reno, it isn't the city. It's the people and the environment that you're putting yourself in. You know, Reno is, I think it's a great place myself. If you hate something that much, then you should leave. “
What he wants more than anything is to have his own place here.
“I was married 27 years. I'm not going to be married again because it wasn't for me. My life isn't going to be any different than this. What I want is my own apartment, a place to live, you know, a door to close, and somewhere to be. If I'm lucky I want to buy a trailer,” he said.