Reno to step up homeless encampment cleanup efforts

RENO, Nev. (AP) — City Council members in Reno have agreed to increase efforts to clean waste from homeless encampments despite arguments that it is not a permanent solution, officials said.

The Reno City Council has voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a cleanup contract of about $250,000 with Coit Services for removal of trash, waste, debris and personal property from encampments through June 30, city officials said.

The plan is intended to sustainably combat waste buildup instead of having public works and parks workers diverted to the effort, city officials said.

"This has got to be a programmatic assignment of people," Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas said. “We can’t do it by pulling people away from their regular jobs.”

Up to 80 cubic yards (61 cubic meters) of waste is collected each week including lumber, discarded appliances, mattresses, used needles and human waste, Thomas said.

Some Reno residents have proposed relocating the growing homeless population along the Truckee River to shelters amid concerns about water quality in the area, residents said.

The combination of human waste and garbage could be detrimental to the ecosystem of the river, one resident said.

"Everything you put in the water, we have to take out," said Andy Gebhardt, director of operations for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “We can treat pretty much anything; my problem is we shouldn’t have to.”

The city of Reno should focus on finding shelter for people before embarking on new encampment cleanup programs, Kim Barghouti of the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality said.

"I do feel like it is putting the cart before the horse," she said. “We know the river needs cleaning up. There are no bathrooms, no trash services.”

"As long as we do not provide beds and housing for people, the effects are going to continue," resident Rudy Leon said.