Editor’s note: This was behind a “paywall” at our local newspaper, so I’m happy to publish it here – for free. This sort of commentary doesn’t belong behind a “paywall” in our small community. We should all be able to read it. I mean, come on.
The website is SierraRoots.org. Thanks to Pauli Halstead, Reinette Senum and others for all they do for the homeless. We are lucky to have them.
It takes a village of people dedicated to solving the problem of homelessness. Now Nevada County has such a village. For the past year a group of professionals and wonder workers has been working to create an infrastructure that will ultimately provide a ‘hand up’, not a ‘hand out’ for the homeless while supporting the local food network, economy, and community as a whole. The purpose of this article is to inform Nevada County residents what progress has been made so far.
The homeless have names and stories. They are our brothers and sisters, parents, and children. Some are veterans from the Vietnam War who never got the help they were promised. Some are Iraqi war vets who have come back to a country where there are few jobs. In many cases these men and women are wounded or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Other homeless are people who have recently lost their homes. This group includes families and children who are sleeping in cars or on friends’ or families’ couches. The number of homeless children, in Nevada County alone, has doubled in just one year. Many of the chronically homeless are mentally ill, with no available hospital services to help them recover.
What are the most important needs to begin to bring these people back to a normal life? For starters it is nutritious food and a safe place to live. You cannot have enough energy to recover if you are hungry and malnourished. You cannot recover unless you have the ability to shower and have clean clothes. These things come first in order to be able to get a job. The Sierra Roots program understands this and is interfacing with the following organizations which are making sure the homeless are getting what they need in order to begin their recovery.
Hospitality House, located in Grass Valley, is a community shelter funded primarily through private donations. The drug and alcohol-free shelter offers three meals a day, laundry services and shower facilities. Hospitality House is dedicated to ending homelessness by providing intensive case management services to all of its guests. Seventy five percent of the participants who go through this program segue out of homelessness into permanent housing.
The Salvation Army in Grass Valley, headed by Majors Don and Martha Sheppard, has been helping the homeless and is now coordinating with Sierra Roots to screen homeless candidates to participate in an innovative model recovery program at River Highlands Ranch. Also, the local Food Bank donates food, which is picked up, by the Salvation Army and taken to their kitchen where people can be fed every day.
River Highlands Ranch has an ongoing and innovative program for homeless vets called Highlands Springs Healing Center. The ranch provides equine therapy to help vets heal from post-traumatic stress disorder. Sierra Roots, The Salvation Army, Hospitality House, and River Highlands Ranch are now launching the village program so as to provide a holistic approach that fosters healing, nourishment, and a model for renewed productive living for Nevada County homeless. It provides a safe place to sleep, grow food, hone skills and learn about healthy living while receiving guidance and resources to rebuild their lives.
In the past few months three homeless veterans have been working at the ranch along with other volunteers building the Veteran’s Village. The site is now fully cleared, and has running water, solar power, and holding pond. Showers will be constructed by mid-July. The outdoor kitchen is in need of supplies. The 6,500 sq. ft. garden is planted and bursting with produce.
To live at the Veteran’s Village homeless applicants will go through a vetting process. River Highlands Ranch manager, Joaquin Jacobs, will have the final decision as to who can live at the Veteran’s Village, but all are welcomed to work on the ranch during the day. The Department of Defense has been contacted about donating surplus tents and sleeping bags to homeless vets. Martha Sheppard has applied for a county grant to help meet the cost of transportation to and from the ranch.
Community collaboration and financial support is key to the success of Sierra Roots. Many times it is simple fundraising that is needed to jumpstart a wonderful idea. Indiegogo is an online fundraising platform that allows us to fund projects such as ours. If you would like to contribute to the latest campaign, Common Ground, please go to http://www.indiegogo.com/commongroundveteran1. There are other ways you can contribute as well, through donations of work-time, tools, transportation, and professional services. It takes a village.