New campus will provide shelter, services to the homeless

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SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - It looks like a typical housing development, but most of the buildings at the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services campus (NNAMHS) on S. 21st Street in Sparks are not being used right now. Washoe County has plans to change that. It wants to renovate nearly a dozen of the buildings and use the area as a campus for homeless residents.

"It will serve women, families, independent living youth and postpartum populations," says Amber Howell, Director of Washoe County Human Services Agency. "Moving them off the Record Street campus to a more isolated targeted approach to serve those populations."

The county envisions turning the campus into a place that would utilize the buildings to not only provide shelter, but resources such as mental health and addiction services as well as day care and postpartum care.

"We've learned that people cannot start focusing on addiction and mental health issues if they don't have a roof over their head or food in their stomach,so we're taking that out of the equation," says Howell. "Giving them a warm meal and a place to stay so we can start servicing them and meeting their needs at a bigger scale."

"We're making a significant change in how we address homelessness in Washoe County and we are very excited about that approach that we are taking," says John Slaughter, Washoe County Manager.

October 9, 2018, the Board of County Commissioners approved a 10-year lease between the State of Nevada and HSA. Under the plan, Washoe County would lease the buildings from the State of Nevada, which owns the current campus but hasn't done much with the empty buildings in the last decade. Howell says the buildings are being under-utilized and this would be a way of addressing our overcrowded homeless population and providing resources without building a new complex.

"The lease doesn't cost anything," says Howell. "What will cost is there is about $700,000 thousand that we have to utilize for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings and then there's a staffing plan that we will bring forward in the coming months to add additional resources. So as far as the buildings are concerned, the state is not charging us for these."

The deal isn't finalized just yet, though. The Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services campus lease still needs to go before the State of Nevada Board of Examiners November 13 for final approval.

The goal is to have at least one of the buildings renovated and ready to be used by the end of the year, with the hope that women and children would be able to move into the campus next year. The county says it would serve 225 people in all.

"We're meeting with the City of Reno and the City of Sparks-- this is a collaborative effort to see which populations need to migrate over to this location," says Howell.

Moving women and children out of the Community Assistance Center on Record Street means that will free up more space at the shelter on Record Street for men.

"We know that we have an ever-growing population and the homeless crisis in Washoe County is something that we can't ignore for one more day," says Howell.