By Kyra Rehard
Note: Kyra served as ACTIONN’s intern this past semester, and did an incredible job! She worked tirelessly to build relationships with the members of our Speakers’ Bureau and help them develop their stories. Her social work skills allowed her to really delve into the trauma of poverty with them in order to help them heal through the process of story-telling and structural change. We’ll miss Kyra dearly, but know that she is going to do incredible work in this community. Here is a blog post that Kyra wrote summing up her thought about what she learned this semester.
There is a lot of talk about who lives in the weekly motels; the Reimagine Reno survey responses shows that many people think that the weekly motels are full of “drug addicts, criminals, and scumbags.” This is the narrative that has spread, no matter how far from the truth it is. Families, veterans, seniors, working class folks, people with disabilities: these are the people living in the weekly motels. People that have lived here their whole lives are being driven out of their neighborhoods in the name of “reimagining Reno”. It seems to me that the Reno many people are imagining is a Reno that would sell out locals to out-of-staters who are not willing to invest in the community that already exists here.
In order to reimagine Reno, a narrative must be pushed in order to gain support from people that already have influence and capital in this city. No one cares when you “clean up,” aka demolish, the weekly motels when the narrative being pushed is that the people living there are “drug addicts, criminals, and scumbags.” You start to get push back when the majority recognizes the people living in the motels are folks that are unable to pay rent because rent has risen while wages have stayed the same.
We are experiencing the worst housing crisis in the nation. People are having to rely on weekly motels because there are no affordable homes to rent or rent with a deposit is too much for people on a fixed income to afford. The minimum wage in Nevada is $8.25 an hour, the average one bedroom is $1003, which means you have to earn at least $3003/month, or $18.77/hour working full time. For anyone making less than that, to be able to afford rent means not being able to afford utilities, health insurance, a cell phone, food, car insurance or gas if you have the privilege of owning a car. The average rate for a month in a motel is around $750 which is outrageously high when you see the conditions and “amenities” of these motels. Unfortunately, it is easier than getting into an apartment. There are no deposits, credit checks, or background checks to get into a motel; all of these barriers make it difficult for people to get into safe, stable housing.
We live in a state that has made agreements with big corporations to bring jobs to Nevada, but they are not jobs for the average Nevadan. The jobs being brought in are high skill jobs, and unfortunately only 23.2% of Nevadans over the age of 25 have a Bachelors degree or higher, which is needed to be considered for a job that would pay a living wage. Our state government gave Tesla $1.3 billion in tax breaks hoping that Telsa would diversify Nevada’s economy, while Telsa agreed to have half of the work force be locals, “unless such requirement is waived by the Executive Director of the Office upon proof satisfactory to the Executive Director of the Office that there is an insufficient number of Nevada Residents available and qualified for such employment.” We are seeing a deficit in multiple professions in our state from teachers, to construction workers, and since only 23.2% of Nevadans have higher education, the jobs will not be going to Nevadans, but people from out of state.
Our state and city seem to favor of investing in things that would bring people from out of state, rather than spend the time and money to invest in the folks already here. We have people coming in that already have capital built up, that can rent/buy in an increasingly unaffordable market, and they are also struggling to find places to live. We are seeing many motels choosing to evict long-term residents in order to renovate to eventually rent to the people from out-of-state that will need to move here in order to fill the high paying jobs that Nevada’s education system is not preparing our people for. Instead of renovating to make safe living spaces for families, veterans, older Nevadans, and people with disabilities, they are choosing to renovate for profit. This means that more vulnerable folks will have nowhere to go.
Shelters are full; this year we had the shelter, the overflow shelter, the overflow tent, and a warming room because there were so many people needing to get out of the elements. There are going to be more people with less resources. A city that lets politics and popularity get in the way of providing safe places for people to live is a recipe for more deaths in Reno. Deaths that are preventable. This winter a person in our community lost their live because they did not have housing. Last year 27 people died, how many more are we willing to let die before we are all in the fight to demand not just more housing, or even more affordable housing, but safe, clean, accessible housing?
Our state sold us out; our city and county governments don’t have to. There are solutions that can be implemented right now to ease our housing crisis, such as an affordable housing trust fund that can be put in place with the vote from our county commissioners. Connect with ACTIONN to see how you can join the fight for everyone’s right to affordable housing.