The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:
1. Board hears update on shelters and services for homeless population: Washoe County opened Our Place, the women and families shelter, in 2020, and piloted a Safe Camp and took over management of the Nevada Cares Campus emergency shelter in 2021. The Board of County Commissioners today received an update on the how these facilities and services have grown and evolved to meet the needs of the community over the last two years, as well as data on successful placement outcomes.
Human Services Agency Director Amber Howell oversees Our Place – a 15-acre campus with 15 buildings to house women and families and provide services such as daycare, risk-reduction, mental health care, addiction recovery, and more. Today’s presentation highlighted the integration of faith-based support and addiction treatment in housing options so that families do not have to be separated while they seek help.
Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) staffs and manages the day-to-day functions of the campus and has 65 staff members on site, supported by 24 HSA staff. The women’s homes have 158 guests, while 38 individuals live in the family homes.
“I’m so proud of all the work we’ve done and how far we’ve come,” Commissioner Bob Lucey said. “It’s tremendously heartwarming to see. These kids have never missed a step in their lives, and we have more than 140 individuals who are back on their feet and back in school, have gainful employment and a roof over their heads. That’s what we’ve always looked to achieve with this program.”
Division Director of Housing and Homeless Services Dana Searcy covered six key areas of development: security, medical services, campus partnership and volunteer development, staffing, construction, and potential state funding for supporting housing. Since July, Washoe County has opened a check-in center at the Nevada Cares Campus with a metal detector and bag scanner and installed an intake/diversion team to properly document participants and address their needs.
Medical care is a top issue at the Cares Campus, and Washoe County has contracted with MedTrust to provide daily on-site care. A new nurse call line through REMSA and on-site medical partners also help reduce the number of calls for emergency medical services at the campus.
Washoe County partners with numerous community organizations, which Searcy identified in her presentation today. There are 21 service providers in place ranging from medical and dental care to food services and veteran support. Additionally, Washoe County works with volunteers and nonprofits to serve meals, provide mail services, and community activities.
“Ms. Searcy has put Washoe County on the map and is a leader in this area,” Commissioner Alexis Hill, chair of the Community Housing Advisory Board. “This is a tough job and we had a big population to deal with and a big population we still have to house and many issues to work with.”
The Cares Campus is currently undergoing extensive construction as the long-term plan for the campus comes to fruition, including new showers and bathrooms, training and case management facilities, a cafeteria, and supportive housing.
Since opening, the Cares Campus has provided service for more than 3,300 unique individuals and assisted in placing 241 individuals into permanent housing. Our Place has served 731 women with 189 moving into other housing.
A common barrier to shelter for those experiencing homelessness is ownership of pets. Washoe County has removed this barrier by partnering with Regional Animal Services and allowing pets at facilities. This care – provided at both Our Place and the Nevada Cares Campus – includes pet supplies, food, vaccinations, kennels and crates.
“Over 30 percent of people we care for are seniors, and people need to have some compassion,” Hill said. “We need to understand that we are all human, and we want people to live in shelter and we want to support our most vulnerable populations. They can come back and we’ll welcome them with open arms because they’re part of our community.”
2. Commissioners provide direction on regulations related to cannabis consumption lounges: Washoe County does not currently have codes related to cannabis consumption lounges, so they are currently prohibited. The Washoe County Community Services Department (CSD) staff presented four areas it is seeking direction on regarding cannabis consumption lounges, which are regulated by the State of Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board. The direction addressed two types of lounges: those attached to dispensaries (retail lounge) and stand-alone lounges. Questions posed to the Board are:
- Does the Board want to allow cannabis consumption lounges in unincorporated Washoe County?
- If allowed, should consumption lounges only be allowed as attached to, on the same parcel as, or on an abutting parcel to an existing retail dispensary; or, Does the Board also want to allow independent, stand-alone consumption lounges as authorized by state law?
- If allowed, does the Board want to allow outdoor lounges or only indoor?
- If allowed, does the Board want to limit the number or location of consumption lounges?
“This is something that was voted on by all citizens of Washoe County: to approve the use of recreational marijuana in our state and county,” Commissioner Bob Lucey said.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to proceed with creating county code for cannabis consumption lounges and bring back draft policy within 45 days. The code will have to be heard at two public hearings before being finalized.
“This is not a site-specific policy decision today. We don’t pick where anything goes. This is a county-wide policy we’re asking staff to look at,” Commissioner Kitty Jung said. “Staff and the industry need to work together if there’s an appetite for this. These are revenue-rich resources.”
3. Board proclaims September 17 as National Constitution Day: Commissioner Kitty Jung read a proclamation declaring September 17 as National Constitution Day, the day that the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787.