Diane Williams, right, with Robin at The Club at Town Center.
Diane Williams, right, with Robin at The Club at Town Center.

Every Friday, Somersett residents led by Diane Williams fashion sleeping mats for area homeless out of plastic bags at The Club at Town Center and on Mondays, another group of volunteers works on the mats at the Aspen Lodge. Recently volunteers at the Club welcomed a special visitor, Robin, who currently lives at the Women’s Shelter in Reno run by Volunteers of America, where she met Diane. In the hope that her story could be an inspiration to others, Robin came to the Club to help make the mats and to share her heart-wrenching saga of being homeless for the first time in her life.

Robin was working at a local business and had an apartment when she came down with a severe case of pneumonia. She was hospitalized for 8 days and out of work for 10. When she returned to work with a doctor’s note, she was told that she had been replaced and no longer had a job. “They said they only allow for 7 occurrences and I was out for 10 days,’’ said Robin. “They told me they don’t make any exceptions.’’

After losing her income, Robin lost her apartment and a friend offered to let her sleep on her couch. While there, the friend’s boyfriend stole everything Robin had, including her last $800.  Desperate, Robin ended up in the Women’s Shelter on May 1, homeless for the first time in her life.

Things got even worse while at the shelter when Robin came down with a painful bout of shingles, a result of the stress she was feeling. “I was so broken,’’ she said.

Eventually, Robin was able to find help and started on the road to recovery.

She recently was offered a position in South Reno that pays a living wage. For Robin, this is fantastic news because the job will allow her to climb out of homelessness.

“I appreciate everything I have,’’ she said. “I’m starting from scratch but I do have hope.’’

Diane, left, with Kerry.

Distributing the mats

Robin asked Diane if they could bring one of the sleeping mats to a homeless friend she watches out for named Kerry. Diane, Robin and Diane’s husband, Willie, delivered a mat to Kerry and while there, encountered a man named Donnie who sleeps in a park. They asked him if he, too, wanted a mat and Donnie burst into tears, saying, “you would do that for me?’’ It was an emotional moment, said Diane, and she couldn’t help shedding tears along with the homeless man.

The three continued distributing the mats and noticed a man lying in the dirt with nothing but a thin blanket shielding his body from the rain that was falling. “He was laying in the water,’’ said Robin.

They tapped him on the shoulder and saw that he was shivering and his teeth were chattering so hard he couldn’t talk. “He was so cold, he couldn’t get up,’’ said Diane.

They put a mat down, rolled him onto it so that he was no longer in the mud, and covered him with a blanket. Diane said she hasn’t seen him since and doesn’t know what happened to him.

How you can help

Donate plastic grocery bags

  • The Club at Town Center: Drop off at the front desk.
  • Aspen Lodge: Drop off at the reception desk.
Robin, right, with other volunteers making mats at The Club at Town Center.

Help assemble the mats – no experience necessary!

  • The Club at Town Center: Fridays from 9:45 am-noon
  • Aspen Lodge: Mondays from 12:45-3 pm