The Reno Friends RISE Report

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 in the past, but since COVID, many of the programs that serve the homeless in Reno have undergone changes. See the latest RFM newsletter for new RFM initiatives around helping the homeless, and the latest RISE report. Here is the October Report from the RFM liaison Steve Wolgast:

According to Ben Castro, the pandemic has had an impact on RISE programs and efforts. Staff with any suspicious symptoms can’t come back to work for ten days, leaving them short-handed. Washoe County has been supportive in providing more funds available under the CARES act and RISE is hiring additional staff. Peer counselor training is a priority so that staff can provide counseling in addition to support services. Ben is pleased that 12 staff members are certified and another 12 are currently pursuing the certification. The certification involves some formal training (done at UNR) in addition to a requirement for a minimum number of hours working in the field.

The Our Place Family Shelter is at capacity with 28 families. Along with parents with children, this facility is available to pregnant single women. There are 40 families on the waiting list. The Women’s Shelter has moved to the new site from the warehouse on Third St. This is a lot nicer. There are currently 100 women there, with capacity for 130 maximum. There is a wing that allows pets. Ben thinks it’s really a healing environment. The problem is that there is no affordable housing to move into for those who are prepared to leave the shelter. At the Senior Shelter, there are 12 units, which are now full. There are few problems managing this facility at this time.

Fourth Street Rest Stop: This is the location that was recently made available for the “RISE and Dine” food program (Saturday night dinners).  There are new large tents housing up to 168 men for overnight shelter here.  All food is provided by the Catholic Charities. Reno intends this to be temporary as the tents are not suitable for winter use. At that point, the volunteer food program would presumably continue. Due to a neighbor’s suit, the court has affirmed that the tents need to be removed by December.  Winter shelters may be set up at Governor’s Field nearby.  Reno has asked to buy the Fourth St property from TMWA, but they have refused to sell. Plans for the winter are being negotiated between Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, and the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission. Plans are largely up in the air now. RISE continues with some outreach efforts with volunteers going to the homeless camps.  There is still a need for ordinary items such as tarps, flashlights, etc. Cash donations received are used for personal hygiene products. Ben would like to start a fund to provide for raises and promotions as his staff become more experienced and demonstrate their proficiency. Updates to the RISE website are underway so that its information is more current.. Ben provided Steve with the RISE 990 form for 2019 describing their financial operations. Volunteers will need to get a background check pre county regulations. This can be arranged by RISE. If you want to help, check RISE’s Amazon wishlist for the Our Place shelter for updates and details on what’s needed. You don’t have to buy items from Amazon, but seeing what RISE is asking for is helpful. 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