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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    Homeless Moved from Pickett Park, and #BringSomeLove Advocates Move In

    After vigilantes threatened to kick out homeless from a park in Reno, they were forced out by police, some of them losing their possessions. Angered advocates then held a donation drive to show their support for those without shelter. Reporters Scott King and Lucia Starbuck were on the scene.

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    Darcy Patterson, an Addict's Mom Helps Others after Losing a Child

    What’s it like to lose a child to addiction? A local chapter of a group called The Addict’s Mom recently held a Lights of Hope candlelight event at the Rail City garden in Sparks, Nevada. Speakers shared stories of how drug addiction affects their lives as well as the lives of their loved ones. Our Town Reno podcast reporter Scott King met with the organizer of the event, Darcy Patterson, herself an Addict's Mom, as well as with others who attended.

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    Meghan Simons, a Substance Use Disorder Counselor

    In this Our Town Reno episode we visit with Meghan Simons a substance use disorder counselor at the Life Change Center in Sparks. A sign on her door says she meets people where they are. People come to the LCC as it’s known for a variety of reasons. Some are encouraged by family members, a friend, an employer. Some find the courage to go themselves. Our reporter for this Our Town Reno podcast episode is Scott King.

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    An Activist and an Artist Team Up for a Day of the Dead Mural Under an Overpass

    This week’s episode of the Our Town Reno podcast is about painting a large community mural under an overpass. What’s the value of that? How do you find a theme? How do you get a community’s buy in? Our reporter for this episode is Scott King, interviewing Asa Kennedy and Kyle Isacksen.

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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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    The Greek, Dreaming of Another Life

    The Greek says he wants more out of life than being a bartender and a drunk. Now without a job, he's on the streets of Reno, trying to get sober, and dreaming of other lives, such as living on the water and working with boats. He almost died of cold during the most recent winter, but still clings to hope his life will take a turn for the better before it's too late.

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    A Millionaire's Daughter on the Streets

    When we caught up with her, Jody, whose father was a rich developer, but who fell on hard times herself, and her teenage daughter had been living without housing for three weeks.

    “I tried to do the weekly thing. I had a job, but I was two days late on rent. They wouldn't let me stay for two days and here I am … Shelters are currently full. Domestic violence shelters are full and have a waiting list. Section 8 has been down closed for a year….The family shelter is also full and also has a waiting list and they told me to check back once a week. This is the biggest homeless population they've had in history here… I was lucky enough to find this place called the Prayer House. And we're just kind of winging it here you know. But here I am lugging all my stuff around down to two bags for my daughter and I. And this is my life. I don't do drugs and you know I don't gamble and we're just good people, just got put on the street you know.”

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    Cravings, Me vs. Self, Love Reincarnated and other Street Poems by Donald Griffin

    This episode features more poetry by our resident street poet Donald Griffin.

    Here's some of what Drew Willis wrote analyzing his writing ...

    "Donald Griffin speaks like he writes. He weaves through images and ideas, the last word of every phrase seeming to trigger a parallel line of thought. He can theorize about unseen dimensions and institutional corruption in the same sentence... In his work, Griffin calls this phenomenon 'The Reno Matrix,' an invisible veil hiding what really controls the day to day reality of a changing city. He represents the unseen influence of media with the ubiquity of devices.."

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    Wishes and Other Street Poetry by Donald Griffin

    Our resident street poet Donald Griffin returns with new street poetry, based on his life from losing the mother of his children and himself to addiction, and then charting his miracle recovery through writing.

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    Lisa Adele Rojas, A Local Business Owner Fighting Against Rising Rents

    “I was in Midtown, and they raised my rent 70% there all at once and there was no way I was going to pay for that with no improvements on their part. And I left Midtown and came to Wells Avenue." For some local business owners, like Reno native Lisa Adele Rojas from Mandala Massage Supply & Apothecary, they face the double whammy of rent for their own living space going up as well as for their business. Reporters Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins spoke with her at her shop to find out more.

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    Karla Wagner and Robert Harding on Opioid Recovery and Harm Reduction

    As a second part looking into the opioid epidemic on the Our Town Reno podcast, reporters Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins interview Dr. Karla Wagner, an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Robert Harding, another local Reno expert in harm reduction and community outreach to discuss best practices to help the addicted and those in recovery.

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    Daniel Fred, Working on Preventing Substance Addiction and Helping the Addicted

    Daniel Fred himself in long term recovery teaches students at the University of Nevada, Reno about substance abuse. Here with Our Town Reno reporters Prince Nesta and Jordan Blevins, he discusses the ongoing opioid epidemic, as well as the resurgence of cocaine and MMDA, as well as other challenges faced by current students.

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    Crystal Meth and other Street Poetry by Donald Griffin

    Our resident street poet from the NEW Generation Dare group, Donald Griffin, reads three of his poems, Crystal Meth, Holding on and Bedtime. Griffin lost the mother of his children to addiction and was attacked while sleeping along the Truckee River, before deciding to get sober and turn his life around.

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    Paula, the Downtown BeadMaker

    Despite all of her daily woes, Paula, who calls herself a starving artist and lives in a motel, shows up at her streetside storefront on the corner of the north end of the Truckee river and Sierra street, rain or shine, in downtown Reno, to sell the necklaces and bracelets she makes.

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    Sharon Marie Daniels, Serving Community Meals and Worried about New Restrictions

    “I'm very upset. I'm pissed off,” Sharon Marie Daniels said. “We just want to help people and they're cutting that off so we're not able to do that anymore.” Soon, after new locations are figured out, healthy volunteer prepared meals will no longer be allowed at Reno's main downtown shelter. Daniels who was homeless herself as a teen says she will keep fighting to make sure her Sunday noontime meals are served, wherever she can, to access the most people in need as possible.

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    Renee and Steven, Trying to Get Sober Together on the Streets

    “It's hard, but it's better cause it's warm, you know?” Steven said. “It's stressful because I feel like I’ve got to protect … you know, the streets ain't fun.” Two college graduates whose lives took difficult turns, Renee and Steven were recently separated after he went to jail in Louisiana and she decided to go back home to Pennsylvania. “I was assaulted while he was in jail. So yeah, it's hard,” she said. Renee said she missed the embrace of his arms and feeling safe with Steven. The two decided to be together again in Reno, even if it means living on the streets. Here they describe how difficult it is and how they are trying to get sober.

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    Stacey Payne, From Addict in the Depths of Despair to Recovery Entrepreneur

    “I took money out of my retirement and kind of bet on myself that I could do it... Since then, I've had the ability to gather a couple of investors who believe in the cause ... And everything now is self funded. And we do that by charging fees to live with us. So the idea of someone living with us isn't to have a handout. It's a hand up." Stacey Payne explains how she established Lyfe Recovery Services in northern Nevada and how her own journey led her to this entrepreneurial vision.

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    Jerry Jackson, Trying to Get out of a Spiral after Burnout and a Breakdown

    Jackson, 43, was an operations manager for a hazardous waste facility, married with a daughter, when he ran into burnout, and started self-medicating with alcohol, sending his life into what he himself calls a downward spiral. “I kind of had a nervous breakdown about six years ago and kind of got out of the circle of life so to speak. I just haven't been able to pick myself back up,” he said.

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    Ace, 33, Homeless and Suicidal in Reno

    Ace says he’s newly homeless again after he said he had family problems back on the East Coast with his older brother and mother, who both siblings depend on. He says he didn’t agree with his mother taking his formerly jailed brother in. He says he had been a caretaker, cooking for his mom. He’d been to Reno before and felt people didn’t bother him here, so he came back. He says he’s also had periods of homelessness in St. Louis, Missouri and Portland, Oregon, among other places, but he feels safer in the Biggest Little City.

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    Legendary Baby Bleu, An Unsheltered Prostitute Surviving Winter

    Legendary Baby Bleu was homeless when we met her and had recently survived winter on the streets. She described how she started being a prostitute as a high school student and how a bad relationship left her fending for herself 24/7.

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    Joanne, 73, A Reader on the Streets Left to Fend for Herself after Facing Mounting Bills

    “I've been on the streets for about six months, but (soon) when I get my check, I am going to have a room. I'm on the streets because there were a lot of bills I had to pay so I couldn't pay rent and everything, so I just did the only thing that I could do.” It's terrible that in our society elders among us who worked hard their whole lives face moments without shelter here in Reno during this cold, raw winter. Joanne tells her story to Our Town Reno reporters Jordan Blevins and Prince Nesta.

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    Life on the River, by Wendy Wiglesworth

    Wendy Wiglesworth who lived along the Truckee River for years explains how she got in that situation, how the shelter just didn't work for her and how the riverside community protects each other.

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    Leann Silvia, Researching about Student Homelessness

    "The fact that the university doesn't keep any record of it is partially explained by the fact that if they did, then they would recognize that there is a problem and once you recognize that there's a problem, you have to start to fix it. And I don't think homelessness is a priority for the university right now" We know extremely little about student homelessness but our guest Leann Silvia is trying to change that through her research at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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    Who Does the City Belong To? by Donald Griffin

    In our first episode, Donald Griffin records part of a spoken word poem he wrote for an Our Town Reno #localorelive live journalism event at the Desert Rose Inn in downtown Reno, where more and more motels are being demolished, worsening an affordable housing crisis and increasing homelessness.

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