Grant #256

River Stewards Project

Project Description:

The goal of the project is to improve water quality by reducing the amount of pollution in the urban Truckee River corridor through outreach, education, data collection, river clean-ups, appropriately placed sharps disposal containers and maintenance/cleaning of Portland Loo(s). This project fills the unique niche of bridging the gap between environmental concerns and homelessness.

Similar efforts have taken place in California along the Russian River. The Russian River Clean River Alliance (CRA) noted that “by engaging homeless individuals to clean up their own camps and volunteer alongside the CRA, the amount of trash entering the Russian River has dramatically declined, leading to beach clean-ups at the mouth of the Russian River to be canceled – due to the lack of trash.” (source:

This goal will be achieved through the following five (5) strategies and respective measurable outcomes:

  1. Maintain an outreach team to build/strengthen relationships with people experiencing homelessness. This outreach team will continue to collect client-level data and data on the provision of housing and services to homeless individuals within 0.75 miles of the urban Truckee River corridor in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
  2. Measurable Outcome: Accurate and timely HMIS data reporting empowers our community to effectively track the number of unsheltered individuals at any given moment to better address homelessness.
  3. Conduct river clean-ups five (5) days per week in the urban Truckee River corridor. Individuals experiencing homelessness will volunteer as River Stewards in teams of four (4), five (5) days per week. Each River Steward team will be led by a Karma Box Project Supervisor, who will be responsible for leading, motivating and coaching each River Steward Team to clean the river while also building life skills and strengthening relationships to help individuals resolve their homelessness. After volunteering for a four (4) hour volunteer shift, River Stewards will earn a gift card incentive.
  4. Measurable Outcome: Pollution will be removed directly from and around the urban Truckee

River corridor. The quantity of trash bags collected, and River Steward volunteer hours will be recorded each day. River Steward transitions into stable housing will be tracked in HMIS.

  1. Weekly pick-up of sharps disposal container waste. Usage will be monitored to ensure units are placed at highest potential utilization areas.
  2. Measurable Outcome: Contents of each sharps disposal unit will be weighed when picked up weekly by contractor.
  3. Provide education. Educational talks on safe disposal of sharps, harm reduction strategies and taking are of the river environment will be integrated into outreach efforts.
  4. Measurable Outcome: The number of educational talks with individuals experiencing homelessness will be tracked daily through the project spreadsheet.
  5. Daily cleaning, locking/un-locking around Portland Loo(s). From October 1, 2021-February 28, 2022 one (1) Portland Loo at Brodhead Park. From March 1, 2022-September 30, 2022, one (1) Portland Loo at Brodhead Park and one (1) Portland Loo at John Champion Park. These facilities are key to ensuring human waste is diverted from direct entry into the river.
  6. Measurable Outcome: A daily log of cleaning and locking/unlocking will be recorded in the project spreadsheet.

TMWA Benefit:

The project advances the following Truckee River Fund priority: VI Stewardship and Environmental Awareness: Support to Clean-Up programs and the implementation of educational programs relative to water, water quality and watershed protection.

Controlling the flow of human created trash/waste is critical to protect the health of the Truckee River, especially in the urban Truckee River corridor. Trash generated by unsheltered individuals living along the Truckee has a large impact on the health of the region’s water source. The River Stewards Program will work directly with unsheltered individuals to clean up areas along the urban Truckee River corridor. Additionally, this project will continue to add to the database of unsheltered individuals to better connect them to housing resources, with the goal continuing to reduce the number of people camping along the river. Lastly, this project will integrate education into our outreach efforts to teach unsheltered individuals about the importance of keeping the river clean and how to do so through use of the sharps disposal containers, utilizing the Portland Loo(s) and volunteering to be a River Steward.