Carson City has no plans to open homeless shelter due to coronavirus

Carson City is not considering opening a shelter to house the homeless during the shutdown due to the coronavirus.

In Reno this week, Volunteers of America, which operates shelters there, announced it would be using the Reno Events Center as a homeless shelter. The group will move residents from two existing shelters into the large downtown venue to have the space needed to separate people the distance recommended during the virus outbreak.

Carson City at one point provided warming shelters in Fuji Park, but that was underutilized and eventually replaced by the Night Off the Streets program organized by Deacon Craig La Gier, chaplain, Carson City’s Sheriff’s Office.

NOTS is run by volunteers who provide overnight space in various local churches for homeless individuals to sleep during the winter months, but the program is scheduled to end in a week.

The program helps 30 to 45 people a night and is run from November to March by a total of 178 volunteers.

“We had one pastor ask yesterday if the churches could open up during the day, but we’ve got a bunch of volunteers who are getting tired,” said La Gier.

The daytime has become as big an issue with the closing of places where homeless individuals congregate, including the public library and other city-owned facilities.

“There is no place for them to go, no bathrooms,” said La Gier. “I asked to see if we could get some porta-potties, but that was a week ago. We’re going to have a different health problem if we don’t do something.”

The city is considering the idea of portable toilets, but there are drawbacks.

“We do have some health concerns related to that. We are monitoring the situation and are meeting with the health department (Wednesday to discuss,” said Nancy Paulson, city manager.

La Gier has been talking to city officials about opening a vacant or closed building for use as a shelter.

“You give me the space and somehow or other we’ll make it work,” he said.

At this point, the city is not considering that option, although it will continue to re-evaluate as long as the emergency lasts, according to Tom Raw, deputy emergency manager.

Friends in Service Helping has 30 beds and has been at or near capacity year round for three years, said Jim Peckham, executive director.

“Normally, we’re cycling people out every 90 days, but we’re not asking them to leave because they’re not getting jobs now,” said Alivia Flewellen, client services manager at FISH.

She like La Gier said closure of daytime spots for the homeless is an issue.

“They’re having a lot of downtime,” said Flewellen.

Peckham said FISH has seen close to a 50 percent drop in people coming to its dining room for a meal, but a 25 percent increase in the clients coming to the food bank.

The FISH thrift store is closed, but FISH is still accepting donations at the back of the Carson Street building Monday through Friday, 2-5 p.m.

Peckham said FISH is keeping workers on the payroll and cycling them through work that is still being done there.

Advocates to End Domestic Violence also closed its Highway 50 thrift store, Classy Seconds, and staff continues to pick up donations, which people can leave under the awning at the west end of the building, three times a day, said Lisa Lee, executive director.

AEDV is also keeping its 13 thrift store workers on the payroll for at least 30 days.

Lee said AEDV has seen a 15-18 percent increase in crisis calls, many asking for information on such things as unemployment benefits, although she expects that to jump more when the situation worsens.

“People are trying to prepare for the worst and they have questions,” said Lee. “I feel like it’s the calm before the storm.”

AEDV, the largest regional shelter for victims of domestic violence with 51 beds, has also gotten more calls from Washoe County for help, which the group usually tries to accommodate. But, Lee said help is now being restricted to residents of Carson City and Lyon and Storey counties.

Lee said the shelter is well prepared with supplies since it is ready for stays of five months of its clients.

“Whenever things like this happen, that’s when you realize what your weakest links are,” said Lee. “And the people who have very little have even less.”


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