Under the direction of the Washoe County COVID-19 Incident Management Team, a Homeless Services division has been actively working to ensure essential services are provided to individuals in our region who are experiencing homelessness during this crisis.

On March 29, the Homeless Services division learned that a homeless individual had tested positive for COVID-19, the first such case in our region. The individual was discharged from a local hospital yesterday, March 30, and is being placed today in alternative housing where they can isolate safely.

The individual had previously accessed services at the Community Assistance Center (CAC) and Reno Events Center. 

Service providers have been notified and advised to continue screening and isolate anyone with symptoms until alternative housing can be quickly arranged.


Background on Homeless Services:

In mid-March, the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) began working with the CAC, also known as the community homeless shelter on Record Street, to provide guidance on reducing the spread of COVID-19.

As part of that of that emergency response, 19 Sani-Hut portable restrooms with hand sanitizer have been temporarily placed in a variety of areas throughout Washoe County to provide our homeless population with access to restrooms. Four Sani-Huts have been placed in Sparks, and 15 have been placed in Reno, the majority of those in the downtown corridor.

Bottled water has also been secured, for general distribution among the homeless population.

About a dozen hand-washing stations will be temporarily deployed soon in the region, once the weather warms up (so the water doesn’t freeze).

The City of Reno worked with Volunteers of America (Northern California & Northern Nevada), the operator of the CAC, to open the Reno Events Center with 375 beds to better accomplish social distancing. Beds are spaced six feet apart, and the facility has ample restrooms available for handwashing. Each evening, clients are screened for a temperature and/or COVID-19 symptoms before being allowed to enter the Events Center.

This freed up a number of rooms at the CAC that have a bed and separate bathroom, where individuals who show symptoms can be isolated. Working with Community Health Alliance medical professionals, these individuals are screened. Based on their symptoms, if they are high-risk for COVID-19, they are removed from the shelter and placed in alternative housing.

Approximately 35 individuals and 20 families remain at the Record Street shelter including Veterans, people who use medical devices that need to be plugged in, individuals with service animals and those with special needs. Families who are experiencing homelessness with children remain in individual units within the Record Street complex.

Food service providers including Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, Reno Gospel Mission and the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality have modified food delivery moving from sit-down dining to boxed meals that can be taken from the premises. They and shelter providers are working to manage lines for food and shelter with greater social distancing.

The Washoe County Human Services Agency has worked with WCHD to plan for placement in alternative housing for COVID-19 presumptive and COVID-19 positive individuals who, for many possible reasons, cannot safely isolate at home. That plan is in place, and a small number of placements have been made. We anticipate an increasing need for quarantine housing.


Two housing options have been identified:

The Incident Management Team has secured a contract with WellCare to house up to 43 people in 20 units. The contract includes three meals per day and support from a case manager and advanced practice registered nurse for individuals who need support to safely isolate.

The Incident Management Team has secured a contract with ATCO trailers for 300 rooms located at Mill and Edison. Operations will start today, with 35 to 40 beds expected to be set up in that location later this week.

The Downtown Reno Partnership and the Foundation for Recovery have dispatched Ambassadors and field staff to share information about COVID-19 with individuals who are unsheltered downtown, and throughout the community, with a focus on giving individuals supplies and the information they need to remain safe.