Sheriff stalls Carson River homeless sweep

A shortage of deputies will force Carson City Sheriff's Department to delay sweeping the banks of the Carson River near Brunswick Canyon this weekend to clear the area of homeless camps.

The sweep will take place in the next few weeks, said Sheriff Kenny Furlong.

Several homeless individuals and families have set up camps on private property in the area, living in tents, campers and makeshift shelters. Some have lived in the area for years and some for a few weeks.

With few options for assistance or work, many of the campers moved to the land owned by Carson City resident John Serpa after the Bureau of Land Management asked them to leave public lands.

Patrick, 42, who lives in a homemade teepee, was outraged last week at the news of law enforcement's intent to clear the area.

"We've been pushed just about as far back down the ravine as we can go," he said. "We are God-fearing people. You're going to take away their dignity, take away everything they got."

Patrick said he plans to stand his ground at his campsite and wave his American flag.

"They're going to have to arrest me to take me out of here," he said.

The former construction worker became homeless after he lost his license and job following a divorce and child-support payment dispute. Without a license, he can't find work operating concrete machinery.

"I have a college education," he said. "I'm not just some dumb hillbilly living out in the sticks."

Patrick lives on $20 a week, eating a package of Top Ramen, a potato and half a can of Spam each day.

About 12 families with children have made homes along the river since winter. They use the water for washing and cooking, and many drive or walk to town for work or to buy food or ice every day. Many river residents say teenagers and weekenders regularly trash the area, leaving behind garbage, cans and bottles for the campers to clean.

Serpa, who has owned the parcel for more than 20 years, is concerned about insurance liability.

Lt. Ken Sandage said last week the department received complaints from the owner and is obligated to clear the area. Otherwise, the department generally doesn't actively try to bother the campers because they have compassion for the situation.

"Once a problem is identified, like a fire hazard, we'll go out and enforce," Sandage said. "We're not at their back unless there's a problem. We very rarely issue a citation. They usually unload and pack up their camps and they leave without any ill feelings."

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment