Reno, Sparks, Washoe County agree to transfer of shelter and homelessness services 

by | Aug 31, 2021

The Nevada Cares Campus will move under the management of Washoe County after approval of an interlocal agreement (ILA) by the City of Reno, City of Sparks, and Washoe County, during a concurrent meeting today. 

The three entities finalized the next phase of regional homelessness services, including operation of the shelter, expansion of the Safe Camp pilot program, and regional collaboration and governance in what is known as the continuum of care. 

“I want to thank the City of Reno and City of Sparks and all the staff involved – tirelessly committed to the solution, and we’re seeing real transformation within our community,” Washoe County Commission Chair Bob Lucey said. 

Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung echoed Lucey’s appreciation of the regional collaboration, saying: “To Mayor (Hillary) Schieve and Mayor (Ed) Lawson, to our County Commission chairman and vice-chair and our whole commission, I am so proud of all of you. This is my proudest moment of 14 years of being an elected official. To turn our reaction into action, coupled with compassion and consequences is something I have never seen in this community.”  

“Today was a monumental step for our community to further improve the safety, health and well-being of our local homeless population,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “I am extremely proud and appreciative of the hard work and compassion that led to today’s approval of the interlocal agreement, a testament to a shared dream and incredible working relationships between all entities involved. I look forward to ongoing collaboration with Washoe County, the City of Sparks and countless other regional partners to enhance the Nevada Cares Campus and continuum of care, providing our unsheltered community vital resources—such as critical mental health support—they need and deserve to thrive.” 

City of Reno has operated the Community Assistance Center since 2008. Regional partners looked for ways to better serve those experiencing homelessness, using the pandemic and federal funding as a catalyst to make sweeping regional improvements. In November 2020, the cities and county entered into an amended interlocal agreement to outline regional roles and the funding of future improvements to the Nevada Cares Campus, which opened in May 2021. In the meantime, the Community Homelessness Advisory Board (CHAB) discussed an eventual transfer of management to Washoe County.  

“Four years ago, we formed the Community Homelessness Advisory Board to do exactly what we did today in passing this ILA,” Reno City Councilmember Neoma Jardon said. “Leading up to this point, there was a sea of people and organizations working tirelessly behind the scenes to champion the agreement and make it a reality. I could not be prouder and more thankful for their service and dedication to making this truly a transformational ecosystem in our area.” 

Today’s meeting approved the transfer of management and outlined a cost-share agreement. Capital improvements to the vast Cares Campus and continuum of care are estimated to cost $38.2 million. Washoe County, as the lead jurisdiction, will carry the lion’s share of the cost at $26 million, or 68 percent of the total. City of Reno will cover 21 percent of the cost, and City of Sparks will contribute 10 percent, a cost formula previously established for homeless services.  

Other expenses to be shared are the operating costs for the Cares Campus, Safe Camp, Our Place Women’s and Family Shelter, and administrative costs.  

“We are well aware that we need to come up with a model that is financially sustainable, and we have many things happening that are very encouraging. The private sector has stepped up in a big way to help us with the capital cost for stages 2 and 3. Nearly $8 million has been pledged, and I don’t know that that has happened in this arena, and we’re just getting started,” Washoe County Manager Eric Brown said. “The county will also pursue grant funding both from the philanthropic community and HUD/federal grants. Lastly, we are also actively in discussions with our managed care organizations, and these organizations have a vested interest in addressing the unsheltered population because it’s very hard to be healthy if you’re unsheltered. In other states, we’ve seen them make major investments in this space with behavioral health and transitional housing. My statement to you is that we are not going to simply look at the expenses and not also look at the revenue side. We are taking actions to try to do that as we speak so that the expenses we are incurring to help these populations are not being passed on to the taxpayers.” 

The three jurisdictions have been laying the groundwork for this transfer, with the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners approving a contract extension with Volunteers of America to continue operations of the Cares Campus, and City of Reno re-signing agreements with other support services such as Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, Allied Universal, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  

“The Nevada Cares Campus has come together in lightning speed – less than a year. It’s pretty amazing,” Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson said. “I commend every single one of us at Washoe County and the cities of Sparks and Reno for being involved and making this successful. It’s important to mention that the Community Homelessness Advisory Board will continue to operate to bring everyone together and break down any silos. I also believe providing more mental health support is vital to helping the campus be even more successful.” 

City of Reno will support the transfer of management and deed the Cares Campus parcels to the county. The city will fund a one-time capital improvement contribution, will support the transition of the continuum of care to Washoe County and assign a staff liaison to ensure a seamless transition. City of Sparks will also assign a staff liaison and contribute to capital improvements. The agreement approved today goes into effect September 1 and establishes Washoe County as the lead entity for the homeless shelter and services, and the primary decision-maker for Our Place and the Cares Campus. Washoe County will also be responsible for the Safe Camp program and the Cares Campus Capital Campaign. 

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