The Reno Friends Meeting RISE Report, Feb. 2021

The Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality (RISE) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Reno, Nevada that works closely with the city’s homeless population. The group, whose Executive Director is Ben Castro, hopes to cultivate a greater sense of dignity and humility by providing equal access for the Reno’s poor to shelter, knowledge, and opportunity. Reno Friends Meeting has provided meals for the homeless through RISE in the past, but since COVID, many of the programs that serve the homeless in Reno have undergone changes.

Here is an edited version of the February 2021 Report from the RFM liaison Steve Wolgast:

RISE was overwhelmed in January.  They managed to shelter a lot of people, but it was quite hectic.

  • A new building for families was made available (by the county) on the Our Place site. It hosted 3 families right away.
  • With the cold weather, there was a dramatic increase in demand for temporary shelter in motels. The county will pay for motel housing for women and families, but not for men or couples. This was a chaotic scramble for the RISE staff. It is challenging to find motels that will rent to guests without ID. I think not using ID’s is a security measure.
  • A local donor was moved to make a $20,000 contribution to get additional motel rooms. He challenged other donors and raised over $50,000. RISE supported the effort to shelter more people under this program, but they were exhausted.
  • There were extra trips to the camps to encourage people to take advantage of the motels program.

Progress is moving forward on projects around the county:

  • Construction is underway for the giant shelter at the Governor’s Bowl.  There will be support buildings with a daytime building and food service.  It is planned to be finished in March.
  • There is a tiny homes (Hope Springs) project that is sponsored by Northern Nevada Hopes.  It includes 30 individual bedrooms with common restroom, shower, and kitchen facilities.

RISE is making a difficult transition. What started out as a grass roots organization with a few dedicated volunteers is now dominated by a commitment to the county with an emphasis on budgeting, regulations, and accountability. The wild demands during January brought the existing stresses to the breaking point. As a result, the organization has changed substantially and this will continue to be a time for some re-assessment and reorganization. RISE has two distinct parts that have different characters.  There is the original neighborhood grass-roots volunteer part, and then the institutional administrative part. RISE has also been hampered by a board that does not meet reliably, leaving decision-making to Ben Castro (Executive Director), but they hope to address that issue soon. RISE served a lot of people this winter under difficult circumstances. It is time to renew the vision for the organization and make the changes to advance it.

If you have something you’d like to donate, email Kim (at) for instructions on how deliver your donation, or you can bring your item to Sunday Silent Worship and Rhonda Ashurst can deliver it to the home of RISE Ex. Dir. Ben Castro for you. The Meeting has been making a monthly financial contribution to RISE. If you would like to help by donating funds, please send a donation to the Meeting Co-Treasurer, Katie Dwyer, at 40 Arbor Oak Court, Reno, NV  89509-6887. 

~ Steve Wolgast, Reno Friends Meeting RISE Liaison