NEVADA – After nearly two and a half years since the first tents were set up at the old Governor’s Bowl park in Reno, the construction at the Safe Camp area for northern Nevada’s homeless population has come to an end, offering a lasting solution to those living on the streets.
The former sunken ballfield, which was filled with dirt to create additional space, has now been transformed into a fully equipped community. The site features 50 modular housing units, bathrooms, a community center, green space, and more, providing essential amenities for individuals experiencing homelessness.
County officials have praised the newly established permanent program as an alternative to the large congregate setting of the nearby Cares Campus shelter, recognizing that it may not be suitable for everyone.
The insulated units, known as ModPods, measure 8-by-8 feet and come furnished with a bed, shelves, heating and air conditioning, and electricity. Currently, 45 people are residing in these units, with five more individuals expected to join in the coming days.
Similar to the Cares Campus, the Safe Camp area permits individuals to bring their pets, which often serves as a barrier to finding suitable housing.
James Sparks, who previously lived in a tent east of Sparks, shared his positive experience after relocating to the Safe Camp. He now resides in a ModPod with his beloved 14-year-old dog, Mikey.
“I’m thankful that they have a place that will take him,” Sparks expressed, emphasizing the importance of keeping his loyal companion by his side. “I ain’t going nowhere without him.”
The secure site is exclusively accessible to Safe Camp residents, providing an added sense of security for individuals like Sparks, who value the privacy and protection of their personal belongings.
Each ModPod cost the county $13,000, while the total investment in infrastructure improvements for the Safe Camp reaches $5.25 million. Funding sources include contributions from the state, county, Reno and Sparks, federal relief funds, and private donations.
Grant Denton, the founder of the nonprofit Karma Box Project, which operates the Safe Camp, highlighted the significance of this alternative housing option for individuals who may not thrive in a traditional shelter environment.
“Some folks will not succeed in the shelter, can’t be around other folks, need a specific type of setting, and so this is for those kind of folks that haven’t succeeded in other models,” Denton explained.
On average, 2-3 residents from the Safe Camp are placed into permanent housing each month, according to Dana Search, Washoe County’s housing and homeless services manager. This placement rate aligns with the success rate at the Cares Campus, where 30-33 residents secure permanent housing monthly. The Cares Campus has a capacity of 549 individuals.
Searcy and Denton emphasized that the Safe Camp model caters to a distinct population, providing housing opportunities for individuals who might not have found accommodation through other means.
While the construction is complete, there is still one acre of undeveloped land at the site. County leaders have yet to determine what will be built on this space, leaving room for future expansion and improvements to support the needs of the homeless population further.
Credits: Fox Reno
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