City's Homeless Develop Their Own Shelter

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Dozens of homeless in Reno say they are tired of waiting for the City to create more shelters.

So much so, they've come up with their own solution, called "Tent City."

The encampment on Fourth and Record Street is conveniently set up right near several of the City's services, like St. Vincent's, which offers monthly boxes of food and a dining hall for the homeless.

The problem is, the shelters in the area are completely full, leaving many out on the street and searching for an alternative.

"I think it represents that there's not quite enough capacity in the emergency shelters for all of the folks who are homeless in our community," says Michael Ford, Executive Director of Catholic Community Services of Northern Nevada.

Three weeks ago, Ford noticed tents popping up, just a few hundred yards away from the facility.

Now, there are over 30.

"It's a lot nicer than being on the river," says Steven Collins, who's lived in the encampment for two days. "At least they're not throwing people in jail. Everyone seems to be cleaning up after themselves, which is a nice improvement."

The tents are right outside the Reno Men's Drop-In Center, which is currently filled to capacity.

City restrictions only allow patrons to stay there for 30 days out of the year.

The City created an outdoor shelter to accommodate additional homeless, but many say the area has become overrun.

Now, there are two encampments: one run by the city and the other by the homeless.

"It's patrolled by homeless people," says Claudia Stone. "We keep our area very clean. Everybody does their part. They do trash runs three times a day. So, it's clean and it's safe. We have people who keep it protected."

Homeless who occupy the area say the police frequently make patrols, but there have been no major issues.

Although, it's far from perfect, many of the people say for now, it appears to be the best alternative available.

"People are getting alone out here," says Colllins. "And if they don't, someone runs them off and the police come down here. It's nice to have some security so things don't get stolen."

Currently, the City is working on a couple of projects in that very same area, to try to provide additional housing.

A family shelter for women and children is set to go up by the fall. That will feature drug and alcohol treatment in addition to housing.

The property belongs to the City and local officials are aware of what's going on down there.

They're still looking at other alternatives, but they acknowledge the need for housing is growing.