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Reno homeless protest new restrictions at center

RENO — Some homeless men in Reno are criticizing new rules at a men’s drop-in center that they say prevents them from cleaning up to look for work.

The rules limit when nonresidents of the shelter can use showers, laundry facilities and telephones, or enter the building to get warm.

Volunteers of America, which operates three separate shelters for men, women and families under contract with the city, said the restrictions are needed to protect residents from those who aren’t in the 30-day residency program.

Reno officials say bathrooms and telephones are available at the family center next door to the drop-in facility.

The men’s shelter has 154 residents and 13 on a waiting list. But more than 80 homeless people sleep outdoors along the fences and between the buildings of the men’s and women’s drop-in centers.

Victor Chambers, who said he lives on the streets, gave the Reno Gazette-Journal a petition signed by 57 homeless people protesting the new rules.

"When the Gospel Mission ran this, they just let people in to use the showers," he said. "I’m not that good, but I’m not that bad. I’m here and I’m human."

Van Dodson, 45, said the rules make it harder for the homeless to live and find work.

Volunteers of America and Reno officials said the facility had to restrict services to nonresidents because of problems with theft and vandalism.

They said 20 to 30 nonresidents can take showers during a designated one-hour period, and phones and bathrooms are available next door at the resource center.

"The issues of theft and vandalism needed to be addressed," said Maureen McKissick, grant developer for the city.

She said Reno’s homeless programs emphasize helping people achieve sobriety or recovery from mental illness, as opposed to just providing temporary shelter and meals.

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