Homeless camps on the side of Interstate 80 near downtown Reno are an issue the Nevada Department of Transportation has been trying to address for years. 

“A few bad apples ruin it for the rest of us trying to get off the streets,” said Lael Smith, homeless and currently living in Eighth Street Park. The park is fairly clean compared to just over the fence where piles of trash crowd the sides of Interstate 80.

“They wouldn't clean up the garbage so it got messy.”

NDOT is responsible for freeway underpasses and areas directly adjacent. They started patrolling the area last fall to try and prevent the homeless from living there. They canceled that program after receiving negative feedback.

NDOT also spent $65,000 to send in hazardous waste teams to clean up, but that didn't work.

“We found that those encampments returned literally the next day and we want to be very judicious with how we use those transportation funds,” said Meg Ragonese with NDOT.

NDOT works with local shelters to help the homeless get them the resources they need, but that can be a challenge.

“It can take some gentle persuasion to where we can coax them to come in and access the services to change their life,” said Sandy Isham, Volunteers of America.

The Volunteers of America shelters on Record Street are full year around and their shelter nears capacity every night.

“There are about 4,000 homeless people in our county [Washoe].”

That number includes those in temporary housing. Isham estimates as many as 200 people live on the streets on any given night.

Even with the VOA's effort, encampments are likely going to stay.

“There is actually a 90 day period of being in a shelter for men and women then we have to wait for six months,” said Smith.

NDOT says it will do targeted cleanup of those camps near the freeway if they start to impact public safety. As of Monday, they do not have any cleanups planned.