RENO — Reports of overflowing toilets and security concerns are prompting regular inspections by authorities of a burgeoning “tent city” of homeless people along the railroad tracks in Reno.
Representatives from local police, fire, code enforcement and health departments will conduct daily inspections to ensure safety at the encampment of about 130 people, city officials said.
No plans are in place to move those camping on city property.
“It’s kind of an unusual situation with all those people living out there, and we want it to be as safe as possible,” city spokesman Kevin Knutson told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “With the economy the way it is, homelessness is a growing problem, and we need some way to get the resources to people.”
Officials blame overflow conditions at local shelters for the camp’s emergence in recent weeks. The camp has been allowed by the city because of its proximity to food services and a men’s shelter for the homeless.
“We’re just trying to hide ourselves from the tourists,” said Don Baldwin, 39, who became homeless three months ago. “Keep it clean, keep it quiet, That’s what we say.”
Tracie Douglas, spokeswoman for the county health department, said two portable toilets at the camp were being emptied only once every three days. But plans call for the addition of three more for a total of five portable toilets that will be emptied daily, she said.
Bob Sulliman, a director of a private security company under contract to protect those at the nearby Community Assistance Center, said the homeless are at risk because no guards are on duty from midnight to 8 a.m.
“Most people are good people who would love to be employed, but you do have some bad apples,” said Sulliman of ISS Security Services. “If nothing is done as the weather gets warmer, you’re going to see more problems, i.e. prostitution and drugs.”
Local officials are hoping to open two new permanent shelters later this year.