As the city’s fortunes have risen, so too have its rents, occupancy rates and house prices. Since 2012 the median price of a home has doubled; the average rental price jumped 17% between 2014 and 2016. In January the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless counted nearly 4,000 people living in weekly motels, up from 2,560 in 2011. Those who cannot afford motels have moved into shelters or onto the street.
If the proposed ordinance to ban sleeping outside passes, Reno’s police officers will be directed to try persuading those living on the streets to move to shelters. If they have no space, the homeless living on the street will be left alone. But if they do, anyone living outside who refuses to move in after a warning might be arrested.
An arrest record makes it harder for a homeless person to find employment or housing in the future. Many studies suggest there are cheaper ways to tackle the problem. The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, a charity, found that the average costs associated with the incarceration and hospitalisation of a chronically homeless person are about triple what it would cost to provide a chronically homeless person with housing. Between 2007 and 2015, New Orleans reduced its homelessness rate by 85%, primarily by providing housing. Reno’s city government should take a look.