There have been clashes recently between the City of Sparks and homeless advocates. Let’s turn to our News Director Michelle Billman and Bob Conrad of ThisisReno to learn more.
The Sparks Police Department has allegedly been telling homeless individuals along the Truckee River to leave the area.
A homeless man who goes by the nickname 'Tarzan' spoke to ThisisReno and said he was told to move his camp, located at the river on the east edge of Sparks, or risk arrest. He said he was just days away from getting into permanent housing from coordinated entry and assistance from Northern Nevada HOPES when he was told to move.
Sparks City Manager Stephen Driscoll confirmed that police have been trying to get the homeless off the river. He said it is against the law for them to camp near the river and that police are trying get them to use the Community Assistance Center shelter in Reno or to move along.
“We try to do service first,” he said. “Arrest is the last thing we want to do. They clearly can’t be breaking the law.”
On June 2, 12 people were cited at Glendale Park at 1:15 a.m. for camping in the park at night, Driscoll said. “We had numerous contacts with them, and they were warned not to camp there. We had talked to them more than one time.”
Additionally 15 other people were warned, Driscoll added, and said that there had been no arrests. Another group of people who could not afford recently raised weekly motel rates are being assisted by the Sparks Police Department.
“We’re trying to get them services as quickly as possible,” Driscoll explained.
The sweeps come as no surprise to homeless advocates, who said that case workers should be on hand before people are moved or cited.
While homelessness is not a crime, critics said that municipalities cite homeless individuals for other infractions, such as being in a park after dark, or panhandling, in order to discourage their presence.
“We’re definitely interested in looking at that,” said Holly Welborn of the Nevada ACLU, which has been researching whether Sparks and Reno have been violating civil rights when dealing with the homeless. “If a person is engaging in a life-sustaining activity… they cannot be ticketed for engaging in these activities. If these individuals are being ticketed (during the day when there is nowhere else for them to go), we would definitely be interested in that.
“If the shelter is at capacity, then they should not have been cited,” she added.
Read the rest of this story at ThisisReno.com.