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City updating rules for homeless camp
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City updating rules for homeless camp

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City updating rules for homeless camp

The humanitarian camp as it looked after about seven 10-yard truckloads of rubbish were removed.

ELKO – Residents of the city’s homeless camp will soon be expected to follow some new rules.

Elko opened the humanitarian camp in 2015 after the city’s homeless population had grown and individual camps had sprung up along the Humboldt River and other areas, resulting in unhealthy living conditions and complaints from community members. Four years later, the camp designed by the city is more rigorously managed — but at a cost.

“The humanitarian campground rules require revision to reflect the potential hazard created with improperly installed woods stoves in tents not designed for that purpose,” said Mayor Reece Keener Tuesday evening at an Elko City Council meeting.

“One of the issues that we’ve noticed over the last six months or so is that we have these wood stoves showing up in the tents and that’s not going to be an acceptable situation; unless the fire department went over there to inspect them and they’re the appropriate type of tent for that heating advice,” said City Manager Curtis Calder.

Calder made it clear that some tents, such as hunting tents, are suited to having stoves in them, but small backpacking tents are not appropriate.

“We also want to make sure to add in the item that says grills utilized for cooking and operational bicycles are allowed outside of tents,” Calder said. “We want to make sure that those are not considered trash or debris items that would be subject to being thrown out.”

Calder proceeded to address the problem of debris buildup at the camp. Campers bring in some of the rubbish, but a lot of it is the result of people dropping off things for the homeless to use.

“It ends up, ultimately, being hauled off by the city,” Calder said. “Dennis [Strickland] reported to me this morning that we paid over $1,000 in landfill fees this past couple of weeks to clean up the camp. There are a lot of issues we learn about as we go on managing this facility.”

“How many truckloads is $1,000?” asked city councilman Bill Hance.

“I would probably say seven to eight,” said public works director Strickland. “And those are not little trucks, those are 10-yard trucks. It’s crazy what you see down there. It looks less aesthetically pleasing than our landfill, to be honest with you.”

Calder said that some people are being good Samaritans, but others drop things off that can’t be used, including washers and dryers.

The camp has increased in size over the years and it takes resources from many parts of the city, according to Calder.

Another issue brought to light at the meeting involves putting up a fence between the camp and a neighboring property where people have abandoned tents and other items.

Calder said a quote was obtained for a chain link fence, but the cost would be about $8,000.

“We might just consider a three-wire fence to provide that separation,” Calder said. “We are out there several times a week and if someone were to move into that area we could get them out of there.”

Dogs at the camp are another issue the council discussed.

We have to probably look at that,” Calder said. “I don’t know that it’s been a problem, but it certainly could be. If we haven’t had any problems [yet] we should knock on wood.”

Once the new set of rules is approved, city employees will go to the camp to post them.

“We will make a pretty concerted effort to make sure everybody is getting notified,” Calder said. “Obviously, we will let FISH know because we are still requiring a new resident to register with FISH to get their campground site.”

Councilman Chip Stone mentioned that he had recently attended the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities. He said he spoke with representatives from Carlin and West Wendover who claimed they only have one homeless person in each community.

“We are handling a lot of influx from everybody, which is a big concern,” said Stone. “We are certainly going beyond the call of the city and helping those folks and I hope the public realizes how hard the city is trying. It’s a tough thing.”

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