The Clock is Ticking For Reno's Homeless

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The clock is ticking for residents of "Tent City." The makeshift overflow homeless shelter on Fourth and Record Streets downtown is emptying out, after the city imposed 30-day limits on people living there.

Last week, there were probably 200 people living in the tent city, and by Tuesday morning there were well under 100.

A new city regulation only allows homeless residents to stay at the tent city for 30 days...after that, they're on their own. Many homeless residents say the new plan is hurting homeless people, rather than helping them.

23-year-old Rudy Mendoza says he became homeless in January, after the slowing economy and high rent rates got the best of him.

"I worked part-time before at a barbecue place and that wasn't enough to get an apartment," said Mendoza.

Mendoza says he stayed in the Men's Drop-In Center for the allotted 30 days, and when his time ran out, he started sleeping in his car. Now he's staying in Tent City...but in about four weeks, his time there will be up as well. He says thirty days just may not be enough.

"It could be. I could get a job, but it could be part-time again and it might not be enough to get an apartment again."

Mendoza and dozens of other homeless residents say they're facing the same problem. And for now, their makeshift home, the Tent City, has changed, due to a new set of rules from the city.

Public works crews are putting in more lighting and security cameras. City guidelines now force residents to stay within specific roped-off areas. They now have to register for a spot...and if they want to stay awhile, they have to follow the rules. Shelter management says the rules are what's driving the homeless out of the encampment.

"They're going to go back to where they were before they moved over here. Your guess is as good as mine as to where they came from to begin with," said Frank Fuglsang, Assistant Manager of the Men's Drop-In Shelter.

Residents say many of them will probably end up somewhere along the river, under a bridge, or in an alleyway...anywhere they can find where there are no rules, and no police to enforce them. Mendoza says rules or not, the job market hasn't budged...and until it does, his options are limited.

"If I don't have money or a good job, I'll just stay in my car."

He added that the new rules have added a sense of security for the residents living at the tent city. He says fights, drinking, drug-use and prostitution have virtually disappeared since the rules were put in place.

Along with enforcing quiet hours at the tent city from 10:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m., the city is also requiring homeless people to register. They then have to re-register at the camp every seven days...and access job or health services by day fourteen. After that, they have until day 30 to find a job and a place to stay.