Truckee River Safety

Call to action: Before December 4th, please email or call city council members and tell them why you oppose spending a quarter million dollars to hire a contractor to sweep the river while people have nowhere to go. This is a city manager staff report and no elected officials have announced their stance. Let’s tell them to spend these unrestricted funds to solve homelessness along the river with work programs, hired peer support, increasing current services, providing a legal place to be, and other proven solutions.

Email Reno officials who will vote on this item:


Solution Focused

The Reno City Council Agenda item D.7.2 calls for the city to spend up to $245,805 to hire a private contractor to push people from the river without doing the work to solve underlying problems or increase services. This private contractor is expected to “remove waste and debris created primarily by illegal camping along the river and other parks impacted by homelessness.” They claim they remove “60-80 cubic yards of waste, including lumber, discarded appliances, mattresses, thousands of used needles, and piles of human waste,” each week (p.602). What is unreasonable about this verbiage is that they blame our neighbors without homes for all illegal dumping.


The construction contractors are to “Remov[e] all trash, debris, waste, and personal property from sites identified by the City.” These personal belongings are to be taken to the Record Street shelter (CAC) for storage, leaving people stranded without their survival equipment, and requiring an untrained crew to work with our friends without homes. In the contract, City of Reno retains the right to direct and fire employees at their discretion through a new full time employee (not included in the first $245k) but the contractor is to assume all the liability. Reno services have been involved in legal action after losing people’s most valuable possessions including dentures; yet the government staff report says “Legal Implications: None at this time” (p.604).


This is not the right way to reach the community’s goals for the river. We believe it is another attempt to get around the 9th circuit court of appeals ruling that defines these actions as illegal torture.


The City has previously claimed that they do not have the funds to provide additional emergency beds, keep the resource center open, provide meal service for those staying in the overflow at a time where they can access it, allow for more access to bathrooms, or to pay individuals to do the night shift in the overflow tent. The tent now has night shift staff in partnership with both Reno & Sparks and trial bathrooms are underway with Truckee Meadows Water Authority. These solution focused partnerships are the way forward.


They have insisted that volunteers operate critical services daily. For this exorbitant fee, we could be paying those along the river to help clean up their space, we could make legal and safe places for people to recover, we could house many of those without homes for the winter season. Please scroll below for one example of  a wraparound housing & work program from Lisa Lee.


So what can we do to keep our neighbors without homes safe this winter?

  • Send your public comment to City of Reno before the Dec 4th council meeting – HERE
  • Attend Reno City Council on Wednesday, December 4th at 10 a.m. and make public comment about this agenda item.
  • Let Reno City Council know how ineffective and inhumane it would be to spend this money on removing people instead of using the money to make sure people stay alive this winter and have a chance to improve their circumstances.
  • Help research emergency camp sites and service focused neighborhoods in other communities so we can design an effective local option – Research Folder

If you would like to read more, you can find the agenda packet on the City of Reno Website (Warning: The document takes a while to load). See pages 602 to 616.


Snippets from D.7.2 in the agenda packet:

  • “The purpose of the crew was to remove waste and debris created primarily by illegal camping along the river and other parks impacted by homelessness. Each week they remove 60-80 cubic yards of waste, including lumber, discarded appliances, mattresses, thousands of used needles, and piles of human waste.”
  • “the city has not been able to field a full crew (leader and three temporary employees) for more than a few weeks at a time. This is because of the nature of the work and the pay rate available.”
  • “the Contract with Coit Services of Reno, LLC. for cleaning and restoration services related to the Clean and Safe Team, in an amount not to exceed $245,805”
  • “Currently C-Tax revenues are tracking above budget in a sufficient amount to cover this additional expenditure. “
  • “Legal Implications: None at this time.”
  • “Transporting identified personal property to the CAC for storage;”
  • “WHEREAS, the City of Reno is creating a community that people are proud to call home and among the Reno Council 2019 Priorities are to “Make progress on homelessness” and
  • “Demonstrate commitment to the river”;”
  • “CONTRACTOR and its agents shall have no authority express or implied, to act as an agent on behalf of the CITY”

Adding a full time city position to manage the contracted staff

  • “The CITY’s Project Manager shall coordinate and direct the services performed”
  • “the CITY can require the CONTRACTOR to remove one or more of its employees either temporarily or permanently from one of more task orders”

Where is the public information to prove this claim?

  • “CONTRACTOR retained pursuant to this CONTRACT has represented to the CITY that they are skilled in the profession to a degree necessary to perform the services and duties contained in this Contract”

The RISE Board

One example solution we would support:

Dec 2nd Public Comment from Community Leader, Lisa Lee

Good morning to you all. For the record, my name is Lisa Lee and I am the program director for Foundation for Recovery and a board member of Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality. I am here today on account of the City of Reno’s proposal in agenda item D7. The City of Reno is full of interesting surprises and I sure was flummoxed to read through a proposal in which COIT Cleaning and Restoration would be the contracted party for a Clean and Safe team for an “amount not to exceed $245,805.” The proposal cites removal of various debris and tents along the river. Upon reading this, I thought about what ended homelessness for myself and countless others I and so many others in the community have helped end homelessness for. The answer? Housing. I think about people like Mary, who I hired at our agency last week and I share her story with permission. When I met Mary, she lived in the bushes at Paradise Park, skittish and leary. I kept showing up anyway and we built a relationship. When she came to my office, we ended her homelessness by getting her into transitional housing and began working on permanent housing. Mary’s recovery began there. She is now a trained Peer Recovery Support Specialist working on state certification. She showed up and did the work on healing years of domestic abuse but she couldn’t have done it without a safe and secure housing situation. There are hundreds like Mary who have been able to get off the streets. Last night, I put together a budget with a full-time peer who could help to link people to housing. The budget includes benefits, mileage, and housing scholarships for fifteen households for a year of rent. The total? $244,191.20. Wouldn’t money allocated to end homelessness for our neighbors on the river who want to come inside be better spent? What about a safe campground for people in precontemplation about ending their homelessness? December 21 is National Homeless’ Persons’ Memorial Day where we mourn the loss of people who died without housing. Studies show that people without housing die, on average, 20 years sooner than their housed counterparts. Why would the City invest in a program that takes life-sustaining gear from people living outside rather than to invest in real solutions. People don’t disappear when their gear is taken, they die.

Proposed Budget

January 1, 2020-December 31, 2020

FTE Peer Recovery Support Specialist x $2,917 x 12 months x 100%
Salaries Subtotal $ 35,000.00

Fringe benefits @ 16%
Fringe Subtotal $ 5,600.00

Mileage: 200 miles per month x 12 months @ $.58 per mile
Travel Subtotal $ 1,392.00

Housing scholarships: 15 households x $1000 month x 12 months
Supplies Subtotal $ 180,000.00

10% Indirect for administrative support of grant operations
Indirect Subtotal $ 22,199.20

Total Cost $ 244,191.20