Our Town Reno

Our Town Reno

This is Our Town Reno audio street chronicles, a podcast by Our Town Reno. Here, you’ll hear raw unfiltered stories and opinions from the streets of Reno. We do live reporting and spoken word. We address issues of homelessness, the affordable housing crisis, the disappearance of public space and the value of helping each other out. As Reno rebrands, what happens to our most vulnerable?

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    Morgan Green, Helping Break the Stigma of Substance Abuse

    Morgan Green from the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies at UNR took part in a recent event marking International Overdose Awareness Day. She passed out naloxone kits, which are used to counter effects of an opioid overdose. “I think we're breaking a lot of barriers in terms of people who are overcoming addiction, but there's still a long way to go,” she said. “A lot of times we tend to pretend that they don't exist, they hide in corners. People themselves don't even recognize when they have a problem because we don't talk about it. We want to make sure that the education's out there, that the compassion is there.” Our reporter for this episode is Lucia Starbuck.

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    Joyce, from Homeless to Motels to Section 8 Housing

    Joyce charts her path from being addicted and homeless, to recovery, to being housed in a motel, but displaced a few times as these were demolished. She then went to social media to make new connections and was able to secure public housing while on disability payments.

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    Josella, Running Motels in a Town With Lots of Housing Needs and Anger against the Poor

    Josella Starbuck is a long time motel owner in Reno, a town which increasingly looks down on motel residents and the motels themselves. Politicians claim they are filled with prostitutes and drug dealers, while developers try to buy them out and bulldoze them away. But the motels have had a long and rich history, and now cater to a population with rapidly dwindling affordable housing options. Some of the questions we ask in this episode include: how does someone become a motel owner? Why do people live in your motel long term? As a motel owner are you bringing value to the community? How do you deal with angry social media comments and pressure to sell? Some answers in this episode.

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    Alan, Displaced from a Motel and Feeling "Teslafied"

    Alan, 59, gets disability checks but says he can’t afford any housing in Reno. He blames Tesla and other new companies in the area for pushing prices up and causing motels to be demolished. For him, the motel room was his last resort before homelessness. Our reporters for this episode are Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins.

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    Josh, A Day Laborer About to Give Up

    “People come to the park, and offer jobs so I'm getting ready to be picked up right now,” Josh, 33, said when we met him at a spot for day laborers. “It's picking up slowly, but it's picking up, you know. It's gonna be busy later but now it's slow and we are just here hanging out. Payment depends on a person. Sometimes I make a hundred, maybe under 100... it depends on the person and the job itself.” Josh says the problem is when he doesn’t get picked up for work, he turns to drinking or weed to pass the time. “That's a bad thing,” he said. “But hey, I still work and still get my job done and I still get paid. I do anything like construction, moving. I can do yard work and, all that stuff.” The San Jose native has been in Reno about 15 years, but he says when he can, he prefers to find work in the Biggest Little City, but then sleep outside city limits to avoid trouble. He lost his parents and went to prison, and says he finds it hard to recover in today's society. Our reporters for this episode are Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins.

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    JD, Mourning his Father and Broken Family While Homeless

    J.D. says he’s from a broken family and that he’s never recovered from facing his father’s death without the support of his relatives.

    “That's the reason why a lot of people are homeless because there's broken families, they're fighting each other, brothers and sisters are fighting each other,” he said. “Wives and husbands are fighting with each other. That's what's going on right now in life. That's the reason I'm homeless because my family is dysfunctional…. broken….”

    He tried to rebound with odd jobs for older people, raking leaves, helping with yard work, but he says he has had fewer and fewer opportunities.

    “Like if somebody needs help, I do it for free, but sometimes they give me something, a little pocket change and I take it because I do need it but I don't ask or beg for it. They just give it to me out of their own heart.”

    Our reporters for this episode are Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins.

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    Steve, Selling Blood and Sleeping Outside

    Steve says he avoid shelters because he says he gets sick there. The California native says he lost his mom and then lost his way. He does temp work and sells his blood, from time to time, but he says he’s bad at saving money. He’s sober now after being an alcoholic, but he still doesn’t have a place to call home, so he sleeps in different hiding spots in downtown Reno. Our reporters for this Our Town Reno episode are Jordan Blevins and Prince Nesta.

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    Kyle, Keeping an Eye out for Injustices

    Kyle, who had been homeless for about a decade when we met him, says he first went to live in the forest with pot growers after breaking up with a girlfriend. He avoids homeless shelters, and prefers camping outside despite the many challenges such as the lack of security. "I even got stabbed in the face, one night, while walking down the streets in an alley," he said. "I was trying to save a girl from a known drug dealer who was on top of her."

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    Jamie, After Losing her Kids, Fending off Assaults along the River

    “I'm Jamie and I come from Oakland, California. I found myself here at the river bank after troubles at home,” the mother of six told us. “I lived in Winnemucca, Nevada, and we just had troubles there, you know, with family and always fighting and not getting along. And I figured it would be better if I just left. I came to Reno about two years ago. I've been staying at the river bank for about two years.” Being a woman is especially challenging, Jamie says, when living on the river.

    “I've never stayed alone,” she said in our recent interview. “There's very few girls out here and lots of men so I always have company, always. It's pretty tough being a woman and being homeless here at the river bank. I mean, people disrespect you … sexually … They steal your stuff. It's hard.”

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    Tim Doss, Recycling and Going Undercover for the Homeless

    “It's eye opening and changes your world. It humbles you,” the entrepreneur said of going “undercover homeless” in Reno. Tim Doss operates the JunkUber.com removal service, but unlike others in his business field, he donates back to the homeless and those without many means moving into new residences. He also took part in an outreach initiative for the homeless several years ago, going undercover and walking in their shoes for a few days. The reporters for this episode are Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins.

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