Frequently Asked Questions
After many community conversations about the need for expanding the capacity for emergency shelter, in a concurrent meeting on November 18, 2020, the Washoe County Board of Commissioners and the City of Reno and Sparks City Councils voted to acquire and cost share three parcels on East 4th Street for the purpose of expanding shelter capacity in the region to assist people experiencing homelessness.
One of the purchased parcels included the Governor’s Bowl Park which was discussed to be a safe camping location. The location was identified to serve as a safe space where people living in encampments could relocate providing access to basic services and a more secure location for individuals not wishing to move into shelters.
Policies and procedures have been developed for participants, to maintain a safe environment where all participants are treated with dignity and respect. The Safe Camp follows a low barrier, harm reduction model to be as inclusive as possible.
Please note: Weapons, drugs and alcohol aren’t allowed onsite at the Safe Camp. If a participant is found with drugs or alcohol they will be asked to dispose of the items or take them offsite.
Washoe County has established a full time Washoe County position, Homeless Services Program Specialist, to oversee the administration of the Safe Camp. In addition, the Safe Camp is a Washoe County initiative with a contracted operator.
The contracted operator is responsible for the day to day operating of the safe camp and is responsible for hiring staff for that specific role. Washoe County has also contracted with a social worker to provide housing focused case management and will also have 24/7 contracted security staff.
The Safe Camp is designed to be as low barrier as possible while maintaining the safety of all participants. Couples and single adults 18 years of age and older will be eligible to stay at the safe camp, sobriety will not be a requirement for admission to the Safe Camp, in regards to pets, the team is exploring how to accommodate pets at the safe camp.
- To be eligible the person must be willing to work towards a housing plan and be able to manage their own activities of daily living.
- A very simple application form has been developed that asks the bare minimum amount of information needed to be able to make an admission decision and ensure the person meets the minimum criteria.
- Given this is a pilot program, we will be distributing and collecting applications through pilot partners to pilot the application process.
- Applications will ONLY be distributed to pilot partners, who are the only people that can submit an application on someone’s behalf, however, any community member can work with a pilot partner to get an application submitted.
- Pilot partner group is comprised of people who are doing outreach with an existing organization or government entity.
Pilot partners include
- Eddy House
- Health Plan of Nevada
- Washoe County MOST team
- City of Reno - Clean and Safe Program
- Safe Camp Case Manager
- Karma Box Project
- The Washoe County Regional Homeless Services (WCRHS) team will review applications for completeness.
- Pilot partners will be engaged to review the list of applications and assist in the development of the approved participant list.
- Pilot partners will assist in determining ideal move in dates and existing community groups that may desire to be placed in tent groupings in close proximity and/or have corresponding move in dates.
The Safe Camp is in the development phase for the long-term camp. As this process takes time, Washoe County developed a temporary site to operate while construction for the long-term site is underway. The temporary site opened June 17, 2021.
The layout, budget and construction timeline for the long term site are currently being established. Professional staff are engaged in the infrastructure development to address all location matters including site grading, emergency access, ADA access, drainage, utilities, etc. A tentative opening date for long-term site will be shared as soon as it becomes available.
The Safe Camp is intended to implement a harm reduction model and sobriety is not required to be a Safe Camp participant. However, for the safety of those in the Safe Camp, drugs, alcohol, and weapons are not allowed on premises. If a participant is found with drugs or alcohol they will be asked to dispose of the items or take them offsite.
Participant feedback is incorporated in the operational model by a Safe Camp Participant Advisory Board. The Advisory Board is comprised of Safe Camp participants only and per the Advisory Board Charter, includes Officers elected to positions by members of the Advisory Board.
The purpose of this Advisory board is to give Safe Camp Participants a voice on issues involving the Safe Camp, housing of homeless persons, and other services provided. This board meets on a weekly basis and advises the Contracted Operator and the Homeless Services Program Specialist on how they can improve services.
All Safe Camp participants are invited to attend meetings to provide feedback.
Lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages are provided to all Safe Camp participants.
To provide a sanctioned location for people currently living outside that reduces the environmental, public health and safety concerns of unregulated encampments.
To provide a sanctioned camping location to reduce the negative impacts of unsheltered people being forcibly removed from a location.
From this stable location, engage Safe Camp participants in housing focused conversations, service referrals and housing placements.
A model is being developed to bring services on site and Washoe County is working on partnerships with existing programs. Programs and services offered will be housing or employment focused.
Linkages to transportation was a key consideration for the Safe Camp location. The safe camp is 0.2 miles away from the nearest bus stop location at the 6th and 4th street intersection. This bus stop provides access to the 4th street bus station, a key hub for bus transportation in our area.
Portable propane heaters are not allowed in tents at the Safe Camp due to fire safety risk and close proximity of the tents.
Additionally, personal heaters have previously been reported in a tent fatality.
Fires will not be allowed onsite. Options to provide shelter from adverse weather events such as cold, wildfire smoke, extreme heat, etc. are being explored.
Safe Camp participants are provided with a tent and a cot to sleep on in a specific location within the Safe Camp.
Participants are invited to bring any possessions that can fit within their assigned tent. Safe storage of belongings will be accommodated as capacity allows.
Site administration and development
We are exploring all options for the safety of the individuals staying at the Safe Camp to include any drainage issues that may exist. Washoe County is developing this site in partnership with our Community Services Department, who have licensed staff to assist with these challenges in site development.
Ordinances related to camping in non-designated areas are being explored by the applicable jurisdictions. Water quality and safety are key concerns of encampments along the river. The Safe Camp will provide a place where campers will not be subject to jurisdictional sweeps and where amenities such as restrooms, handwashing and trash disposal will be offered.
While Washoe County is aware of this need in our community, safe parking locations for vehicles and/or RVs are not planned for the Safe Camp at this time.