The “Biggest Little City in the World” is earning a new distinction: one of the few cities in the West to get large numbers of homeless off its streets.
The city teamed with Sparks, a neighboring city, and surrounding Washoe County to build a Nevada Cares Campus in 2021 that could accommodate more than 600 people in a giant tent and satellite sleeping pods. Since that year, the number of homeless living on the street has plummeted to 329 this year from 780, according to annual point-in-time counts.
The 58% drop is striking when compared with many other Western cities which have seen their unsheltered homeless populations grow or stagnate since the pandemic, amid soaring drug addiction and a federal appeals-court order that prevents cities in the region from clearing streets without providing enough beds. California has spent about $20 billion over the last five years to combat the problem, yet still has half the nation’s unsheltered homeless.
Once people are off the street and in the tent, the other part of Reno’s approach kicks in: helping them find a job, access other services and move them into permanent housing. Other cities are taking notice.