RENO, Nev. (KOLO) Being without a home is not a new experience for John Niebuhr.
“This is the second time that I’ve been homeless,” he explained.
During his time in a Reno shelter, he has seen plenty of people who are simply not interested in making a change.
“A lot of people don’t want to go back. They have just given up, saying ‘we are on government food stamps.’ but that’s not where I want to be.”
With that attitude in mind, Niebuhr was picked to be a part of the latest Reno Works class. It's a city program that makes a point to get homeless people back on their feet.
“We have homeless issues for sure,” said Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon. “Whether it’s our main shelter on Record Street, our overflow shelter, it has reached a point where we have a tent set up in the parking lot on Record Street to house more people. So our homeless issues are growing, and coming up with creative and effective ways to deal with that is how Reno Works all came about.”
Councilwoman Jardon, along with Pat Cashell, came up with the idea for Reno Works two years ago, selecting a new group of people each time to take part, and the results are near perfect.
“During the 10-week program there is intensive job search that goes on,” Jardon described. “By the time they are completed with the program, 99% of them have full-time employment.”
Jardon says in its first two years, Reno Works has already helped 49 people go from being homeless to working full-time. The program features three days of work each week and two days in the classroom.
“It was made clear that if we do the work, the results will take care of themselves,” said Marinan Barta, who was also enthusiastic about being a part of the program, and wants badly to be a viable member of society again.
“That I can, at 57, begin again," she said. "There is hope for betterment, and there is hope for a future for us. The camaraderie is really great with the group and our teachers.”
Once they complete the program, graduates don’t just get a job, but housing assistance and continuing case management support as well.
The program this year was funded by donations without the help of taxpayer money.
“Reno Works started as a simple idea," Jardon stated. "Government can sometimes be viewed as very rigid, inside the box kind of thinking. Reno works is an example of doing something differently and having it be successful.”