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VOA likely to continue operating homeless shelter
by Joshua H. Silavent
Dec 04, 2011 | 1970 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — After months of dispute over control of the Community Assistance Center (CAC) on Record Street in Reno between competing nonprofits, it now appears certain that Volunteers of America (VOA) will continue to run the homeless shelter for the foreseeable future.

In late May, a multi-jurisdictional committee of Washoe County, Sparks, Reno and Reno Area Assistance representatives voted 4 to 2 to award a CAC operations contract to Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada (CCNN) based on a number of criteria, including references and available funding, even though VOA currently manages the shelter.

Officials with VOA vehemently protested and the process stalled.

A decision was further delayed when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it was implementing a shift in its homeless services policy.

HUD’s new regulations reflect a shift of resources away from indefinite sheltering of the homeless toward finding rapid, permanent housing assistance.

Failure to comply with these changes could jeopardize nearly $5 million in federal aid for local homelessness and housing programs, including community development block grants and continuity-of-care grants.

Then, in August, Washoe County Commissioners formally rejected all bids for a CAC operations contract, marking the end of a process marred in controversy, but setting up what looked to be another showdown between VOA and CCNN.

A new request-for-proposal (RFP) process was then initiated, though it came with more stringent requirements this time around, ultimately affecting the outcome.

For example, one stipulation of the contract requires that applicants have at least two years experience operating a public shelter. The original RFP did not include this requirement. It was added as a measure of credibility and necessary given the length of the contract terms, said Maureen McKissick, grant and fund development manager for the city of Reno.

VOA meets this new qualification and, according to spokesperson Sandy Isham, that specific requirement might explain why the nonprofit was the only entity to apply for the latest operations contract.

CCNN officials did not return calls for comment prior to publication.

Isham said VOA submitted an extensive 300-page proposal outlining its capabilities to run the CAC and its aspirations for developing and expanding programs for those in need.

Though it is next to certain that VOA will be awarded the operations contract – which is good for 18 months beginning Feb. 1, with possible extensions up to four-and-a-half years – Isham was cautious not to put the cart before the horse.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a done deal,” she said.

A transitional governing board made up of Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, Reno Mayor Bob Cashell and Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung will meet on Monday at the CAC and is expected to make a recommendation to the Reno City Council to award the operations contract to VOA.

The Reno City Council will likely vote to approve that recommendation at its Dec. 14 meeting, but “we never want to anticipate what they’re going to do,” McKissick said.

Still, it’s a safe bet.
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