We can solve Reno’s homelessness problem (opinion)
Special to the NNBV
RENO, Nev. — We can solve this. But it will require that we all pay attention and get involved, if only by supporting the people and organizations in our community who are donating hundreds of hours creating the right solutions.
Normally, I write about the residential real estate market in northern Nevada, but this time, I would like to talk about the homelessness issue. Why should we care? If we make our living here or we live here to enjoy the tax advantages, it should be that we are all urged to be part of any solution that makes our community the very best it can be. It will take all of us to be part of a vision that helps shape our community.
It suddenly seems as if everyone is talking about the homeless in our community. The neighborhood sites I read online alternate between stories of homeless people along the river casing their houses, to comments from others that imply people should do more to help and be more empathetic.
My church, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral downtown along the river, invited J.D. Klippenstein to talk about a specific initiative — GST (Goods and Services Tax) or the Driver’s License funds — that could potentially raise $12 million to $14 million annually, if allocated to housing for seniors and for people on the edge.
William Thomas, Reno’s assistant city manager, believes the homeless in our community represents one of the biggest challenges we face right now. Operation Downtown and the BID (Business Improvement District), composed of downtown businesses, the private sector and many organizations that are stakeholders in solving the complex issues of homelessness, are all working on plans to solve both the homeless and affordable housing issues we are facing.
In order to create effective solutions, here are a few suggestions:
• First, we need to educate ourselves about the size of the homeless community, and understand who they are and how they became homeless. There is statistical information about the size of our homeless community available. Start with the Truckee Meadows Tomorrow page here: truckeemeadowstomorrow.org/indicator/homelessness.
Second, we need to have a plan we all agree on. William Thomas believes we need a collective vision of expectations both from the community and from the people that are homeless. The City of Reno has a lot of good information on their website about what we have in place now’ go here: bit.ly/2DAKrHP.
As part of the master plan or vision, we need to be thinking about how we personally want to work with the homeless, and what we want the results to be. Do we simply take care of them without attempting to help them to become productive members of our community? Personally, I do not believe that is the answer. As statistics show, that approach is much more expensive and in my opinion, not sustainable with the funding resources available in our community and state.
The Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency, Truckee Meadows Healthy Communities and Enterprise Partners are crafting plans with great promise. Visit the website at tmaffordablehousing.org/news-and-updates to familiarize yourself with all they are doing. Email Ken Krater at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the mailing list for the newsletter.
Finally, we need to fund these efforts. Here are four suggestions.
• Get rid of the depreciated property tax. We are the only state in the country that considers depreciation. It is unfair, it is complicated and it is not needed. We are a state that has no income tax, and we have low property taxes. It would only reset upon the sale of a property, so it would not affect current homeowners. Honestly, in representing buyers for the past thirty years in our wonderful community, property taxes have never been a consideration in any purchase. This issue will be on the next ballot. Vote to get rid of it! Let our local and state politicians know we want them to support this change. I understand it is hard in this environment for our leaders to take the initiative on this issue. We need to be vocal on this issue, and make it clear that we want that money to go towards creating affordable and sustainable housing for all.
• Let our county commissioners know we support the idea of taking some of the GST (Driver’s License funds) to be diverted to these issues.
• Support and donate personally (time and/or money) to the many organizations that are trying to make our community the best it can be: The Community Foundation of Western Nevada, Truckee Meadows Regional Planning, the downtown Business Improvement District, The City of Reno, Northern Nevada Hopes, Volunteers of America (they run the Record Street Shelters) and so many more.
Support the Dorms at Sage Street Project. Go to nevadafund.org/causes/dorms-sage-street for more information.
• Please support and appreciate the people and organizations who are working to solve these issues, especially our local council members and their staff.
I would like to thank Ken Krater, William Thomas, The Community Foundation of Western Nevada and Par Tolles for all they are doing and for help educating the novice. Let’s all plan to get educated and involved.
Nancy Fennell is president of Dickson Realty. Visit dicksonrealty.com to learn more.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.