It was a wake up call for dozens of homeless people in Reno Monday morning. Reno police officers showed up in the area of 4th Street and Record Street to enforce the city's ordinance that bans camping out on certain sidewalks.
"This was really sad you know. They didn't give them a chance to pick up their stuff. It was quick, it was rainy. It was really sad to see," says Renato Lira, a Reno resident, who watched the sweep and captured video on his cell phone.
City workers started ushering homeless people off of the sidewalks around 8:00 am, forcing many of them to leave their belongings behind. Mattresses, blankets, and clothing items were left strewn about on the sidewalk.
"To see all the belongings they have. The last belongings they have, they don't have it no more," says Lira.
The City of Reno says it's not out to hurt anyone, but to help.
"Well, we're really dealing with some public safety issues," says Michele Anderson, spokesperson for the City of Reno. "Just this morning, for example, we had some kids that were going to school and because of individuals that were sleeping out on the sidewalk, the kids had to avoid that area and walk out to the street."
Last Wednesday, the city council approved the rules expanding the downtown area where homeless people are barred from camping on sidewalks. The updated ordinance bans camping out on sidewalks from Wells to Keystone Avenues and from Interstate 80 to California Avenue and Stewart Street. And police are allowed to arrest anyone camping on sidewalks outside the Record Street Homeless Services Center.
City officials say they're not just watching out for residents, but for business owners and visitors in the area. They're also trying to get these members of the homeless population off of the sidewalk and into the shelter or overflow shelter nearby. But some people worry this could be the start of bigger problems.
"They're going to scatter out and they're going to find other places to go," says Laurie Adams, a Reno resident who walked by the area as public works crews were cleaning up. "And it's really sad because it's going to be along the river. It's going to be along the railroad tracks. I know, I've seen it.
No one was cited or arrested during the sweep on Monday. The city says it's trying to avoid those penalties and just issue warnings instead.