Biggest Little City

Family Shelter History

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The Family Shelter’s design changed during the development of the project. Our operative motto was, “Do it once and do it right.” Originally, the shelter encompassed three large dormitory spaces with moveable “accordion walls.” Emerging information from around the United States, however, identified individual units as “best practice.” Apart from reducing some risks and security issues, including the costs associated, individual units permit homeless families the privacy to normalize and stabilize as they move from crisis into recovery.

The Reno Family Shelter was closely modeled on the very successful Rebele Family Center in Santa Cruz, California, whose staff lent our jurisdiction technical assistance in planning and designing our facility. Two of their suggestions were to design several units that could accommodate larger families – which, though less common, are very difficult to house intact – and to create a separate area for pregnant women and/or women with infants. After reviewing local data to ascertain the need, the City opted to incorporate these features in order to make the Family Shelter as versatile as possible.

Volunteers of America, a 100-year-old, non-profit organization which operates shelters in 47 cities across the United States, is the operator.

The third floor contains the Family Shelter itself. The Family Shelter consists of 21 individual units plus a six-person unit for pregnant women or women with an infant. The units are designed around a large, interior, multi-purpose common room, which will serve as a space for meals, programming, meetings, and other community needs for the resident clients. There are also several administrative offices for counseling or private meetings. 

About the Facility
The building has +50,000 square feet. It was designed by Blakely, Johnson & Ghusn, a local architectural and engineering firm, and contains three full stories with an active roof. The construction cost, including soft costs and the contingency account, was $12,155,000. Forty-nine donors contributed to the construction budget, including 10 private foundations. All three local jurisdictions provided construction funding along with the State of Nevada and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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