Trena's Story

Trena Bristol, a person without a home for 5 years, was a guest for the project “A Place to Call Home.” Here is her story, in her words.

trena

This is probably the last place I'd ever thought I'd find myself. I am a Harvard graduate, and also have an MBA from UC Davis. I have lots of experience in public accounting, and was a licensed CPA in two states. I have also been in the military for 10 years,  I was not in active duty but spent time in the reserves and National Guard and had a lot of great experience from that.

So what happened started back in 2011. I was working up in Lake Tahoe had been working up there for 10 years when my job went away. It was an after effect of the 2008 crash. Most of our real estate clients lost a lot of revenue and in2011 the revenue sank to a point where they couldn't pay me full-time, and I had to go looking for another full-time job.  I finally got an entry-level tax manager job in San Francisco through some connections, a fellow I used to work for at Price Waterhouse Coopers. So I pulled some strings and landed that job. I was very excited and got down there and then was laid off after six months without really given any feedback. So I thought I’d tryto get another job so I got three other jobs in quick succession with large public accounting firms and got laid off after a couple of months each time. Then I decided I'd try my luck in Sacramento and got hired by a public accounting firm, butgot laid off again. I am just completely baffled. This has never happened to me.  I had no idea what was going on. 

For the next year and a half, I tried various things including being a Buddhist nun for awhile but that didn’t quite work out. Then somebody I worked for in Reno, a former colleague of mine in Reno who thought highly of me, told me about a job opening. I have been unemployed for an unheard-of two years so I go work for that firm and do everything humanly possible to handle this job. They laid me off after four months and I was utterly floored. I was at the edge, and if it wasn’t for background checks to purchase a gun in California, I may have gone through with it.  

When I got laid off again for the fifth time in less than two years, a couple of very dear friends, especially one who knew me for four years, said there were motions I used that were odd and maybe I should check on it. She said maybe they think you are high or drunk. I went to a local doctor, but because I was adopted, they didn't have the background to make a diagnosis.

My world didn't make any sense anymore. You know it's like if you were trying to wake up in the morning and put on your pants and your pants won't go on.  I have never had troublekeeping a job.  

My first referral to a neurologist was December, 2015, but was a small disaster. I have learned that you really have to get in front of movement disorder specialists, somebody with a background who's got a history of looking at people and by their motions, they can tell if there's a Parkinson's tremor versus a Huntington’s. My dermatologist, on an annual visit, stepped in to help. He referred to me Dr. Sharon Shaw at Stanford, who worked in this amazing center, like a brand new six floor building dedicated to nothing but neuroscience.  Within ten minutes, she diagnosed me with a form of Huntington’s disease. Within a month and a half they declared me disabled.

To hear more of Trena’s story:

https://www.a-place-to-call-home.org/audio-story-showcas

http://www.kvmr.org/storycatchers

Empathy through Art: Connecting with the Humanity of Homelessness

What if we did not feel like avoiding homeless people on the streets? What if you felt brave enough to start a conversation and get to know someone who does not have a home? How might that affect the solutions?

These are questions that I wonder about. Two years ago, I moved to Nevada County, and during the first heavy rain here in November of 2015 happened while I was caring for my sister’s dog. When I took Shambo for a walk, I notice numerous people setting up encampments. Some were holding a tarp over their head and others had a chair turned upside down to protect them from the storm. As I tried to quickly move through this area walking my sister’s large black male greyhound, a soaked and disheveled man walked toward me and said “Hope that dog isn’t a male. My dog doesn’t like males!.”  My immediate response was fear…then heartbreak.

It was a moment of truth, and I realized I could no longer turn a blind eye to what I saw before me. I imagine that the man with that dog was as afraid as I was, and he was so much more  vulnerable. Shambo and I had a warm and dry home to return to, while these folks were making due with whatever garbage they could find to protect themselves. My empathetic self came forth, and as I walked home I ruminated on how sad it was that people did not have shelter from a storm. As I sat sharing the experience with my dear colleague and collaborator over coffee the next week, we evolved an initial plan which has since turned into a project supported by two grants, one from California Humanities and the other from California Arts Council. We are using the arts to connect with the story and humanity of homeless people.

We have recorded over 50 stories from homeless people, organizations working with homeless people, officials charged with solutions, and concerned citizens. Over the last 6 months as we have collected these stories, we have heard moments of sweet kindness, sad moments of deep despair, and everything in between.

We asked a consistent question to most of our storytellers. “What have you learned about people through your involvement with the homeless community?” This was posed to each person. The answer most often given was “We are really all the same.”

How can we face this tough challenge of having a world that works for all, including those that fall on hard times? How can we, as a wealthy society, feel at peace when our fellow humans are sleeping in the woods, on the street, and in their vehicles? A Place to Call Home is a project to shift perceptions, and bring us together as a community to collaborate and co-create solutions. We are using the arts, photography, music, video, audio, fine art, writing, and poetry to tell these stories of humanness.

What does it mean to be a Human Being Positively Human? It means having the compassion to reach out to our fellow man and lend a helping hand. This could be as simple asking someone who looks like they are having a rough time, “How is your day going?” And then listening to the response. Maybe you can’t do anything concrete for them, but you can express care. Time and time again our homeless storytellers told us that when they knew someone cared it shifted them into a better place.  We are sharing these stories globally. We have big visions of creating our local community as a model to how to come together on solutions.

If you would like to support this project, 

Become a Sponsor or Underwriter of the following creations we are committed to produce:

    •    Documentary Film

    •    Music CD

    •    2018 Daily Compassionate Action Wall Calendar

    •    Multi-media experiential live event at The Center for The Arts in Grass Valley, California on Friday, November 17th, 2017

    •    A-Place-To-Call-Home Group Art Show at the Granucci Gallery, The Center for The Arts from November 15th - 30th, 2017

THANK YOU!  Please visit a-place-to-call-home.org.  

Betty Louise is Co-Founder of The CoPassion Project, and an Author, Certified Coach, US Radio Personality, and a Certified Broadcaster at KVMR in Nevada City, California. Her current project, “A Place to Call Home,” uses the arts to connect with the story and humanity of homeless people.

 

 

Supportive Community Housing: People who are Homeless Now, orWill Be Soon

In answer to Michael Heggerty’s piece in the Union on Monday, May 15th, 2017, and in solidarity with the piece about tiny houses fixing the huge problem of a growing number of people becoming homeless, I wish to speak out.  Sierra Roots, the non-profit that is already serving this population has as its mission, the creation and development of a Supportive Community of small bedroom units surrounding a Community Center with   a commercial kitchen, laundry and bathrooms for the residents.  We begin by building community with the people who are homeless, knowing that sincere and trusting relationship is the first step towards health and purpose.  We call this “building community with people who are without homes”.  We have been doing this for several years now through our lunches, our advocacy work, getting medical help for them and opening a cold weather shelter this past winter.  This is a temporary help until we can provide supportive community housing for them.

Once we find a site of 4-5 acres, the residents and our team of volunteers and non-profit leaders will work to build a Community Center and 30 tiny cabins or sleeping units by using sustainable building methods.  All use permits and zoning regulations will be followed with the help of our Project Development team of Volunteers.  We have plans to include an aquaponic organic garden, bee-keeping, a dwarf tree orchard and a barn/workshop where residents can develop micro-enterprises.

The residents will be responsible for maintaining and improving the Community.  There will also be experienced managers on site around-the-clock to handle any issues arising. A Council of residents and non-profit leaders will oversee the self managed community.  Applicants to the community must be local, and will be interviewed with a motivational interview to help them decide on a path to health, purpose and well-being.  Advocates are being trained now to be available to individual residents to help them follow their chosen path to health.  These advocates are already working with individuals who are chronically homeless and need and respond to one-on-one personal help.  

Supportive Community Housing is definitely needed for chronically homeless residents.  They need to be safe, sheltered and supported in their journey to health, sustainability and civic participation. Residents will pay a percentage of their income for rent or provide sweat equity by working on the land.  This is just one proved solution to the local homeless situation. Sierra Roots has a plan and is ready to go forward with it once we find a suitable site.

Sierra Roots is not seeking funding from City or County. We are only asking for cooperation and collaboration to help us see this project through for the benefit of the whole community.  This is one positive solution for the chronically homeless who are now living in the forest, camping illegally, leaving trash and being the source of extreme fire danger and community aggravation and fear.  

A 24/7 emergency shelter is transitional housing.  This Sierra Roots solution would be a sustainable, affordable and beautiful permanent housing for those who cannot find or pay for apartment housing and cannot live in an apartment. They want to work the land, have a separate and private dwelling of their own that can be locked and safe. The Village will be a central place for county agencies to connect with people and where those needing day laborers can find them. 

Can this work successfully and be sustainable?  ABSOLUTELY! Sierra Roots' Board members and volunteers are dedicated and passionate about making sure it works. A 24/7 emergency shelter is good for transitional housing but still is not a place to call their own. Sierra Roots and the many donors, volunteers and leaders work WITH the people who are without homes instead of working as a charitable organization that gives temporary aid to these individuals. Sierra Roots does provide a hand up instead of a hand out.  And as we do that, we also provide food, clothing, tents and tarps that are needed until we can find a sanctuary site on which to build the supportive community housing we envision.

Please join one of our teams –Advocates Team, Emergency Shelter Team, Lunch Team, Project/Development Team, Grant Writing Team

For more information call 265-5403 or 264-5113

www.facebook/sierraroots

www.sierraroots.org

TIME TO JUST DO IT

It used to be said that any man (old saying) that sits back at the scene of a crime or an obvious and blatant injustice and does nothing to prevent the travesty, but could have, is just as guilty as the perpetrator themselves. 

Short of making bricks from recycled newspapers The Union has done what it could--it has generously given voice to this clear and present danger. 

I guess that leaves it to the County government whose number one job is supposed to be public safety. Leaving folks out in the cold and dark is not safe for anyone. The county could be part of the solution starting tomorrow. They have had a lease in front of them for over two years now and they do far too little. They have done numerous studies that virtually no one has read. I can’t even get through them all. 

Dying from exposure is a tangible concern for Nevada County's homeless, and occurs with shameful regularity. Those that make it through the winters are still confronted with a life expectancy of about fifty years— less that two-thirds the lifespan of the average American. And this is to speak nothing of quality of life—our county's homeless contract disease, struggle with mental illness, and face abuse and assault at rates drastically higher that the average American. 

Unfortunately, we have become too passive and complacent with our neighbors' suffering. Though many exceptional organizations and individuals have worked tirelessly to support our homeless population, the vast majority of citizens and most of our elected representatives have opted instead to look the other way; at best, anticipating the perfect solution, and at worst, believing "bootstrap" myths of social mobility. 

If nothing changes, however, history suggests that individuals may well literally freeze to death in the next year or so. When that happens, who will bare the moral responsibility? Will inaction in the face of injustice make you morally culpable? To what extent is passively allowing your neighbor to decease in the elements indistinguishable from actively killed them yourself? 

Real people's lives are at stake, and after all, inaction toward any issue is still a form of action. To decide what constitutes right and ethical action, consider the four questions below, read through our logic if you'd like, and decide on an answer for yourself. 

1- Do you have a role in solving this problem, or is it completely someone else’s? 

Obviously, no one individual can involve himself or herself in every issue. We pick and choose based on our interests, abilities, fears, convenience, and obligations. Yet, we also know that people have an onus to take action on issues they would otherwise prefer to ignore. It is illegal to witness and not report child abuse in California, for instance. So, legally speaking, the acceptability of inaction can be based on a witness' knowledge, and a victim's capabilities. You may know nothing about fighting and hate confrontation, but if you cross one small child bullying another, you will likely step in and help. Here, the acceptability of inaction comes down to proximity, relative power, and the fact that no one would have stepped in if you had not. 

Is homelessness close to you in proximity, figuratively or literally? Is there someone else, if not you? To what extent can the victims solve the problem without your help? 

2- To what extent are we responsible for the problem? 

There is lots and lots of precedence where injustice in front of us is passively treated. But I don’t think that we should just talk about the ”studies” that have already been done while so many of our fellow citizens are suffering. I can’t even get through the plethora of previously created Nevada County homeless studies, can you? They all get around to, “We’d like to do these things, but we can’t really afford them.” Therefore, when it comes to getting something done the only solution is “What do the citizens want to volunteer to do?” Everything else is academic. As proven around the country, the citizens want to get together and make tiny house villages with and for the homeless. It’s participatory, it’s meaningful, and it’s fun. Then set them up in a functional and successfully managed village. The tiny village concept is being successfully implemented around the country saving both money and lives. 

Nevada County residents, so far, appear to have three central concerns. The first has to do with money. People are understandably worried that an Opportunity Village for the homeless might end up diverting funding from important county or city programs that are already financially stretched. Fortunately, this model is designed to be totally expense free for our county and city governments. Moreover, there is plenty of reason to believe it could actually save the county a considerable amount of money. In 2012, the HUD secretary estimated that a homeless individual living on the streets cost taxpayers about $40,000 a year, and data suggests that this is actually a conservative estimate! Without the stability of a home and the dignity it provides, homeless are prone to "randomly ricochet through very expensive services," according to Philip Mangano, former head of US Interagency Council on Homelessness under President Bush and policy advisor under President Obama. However, multiple studies have confirmed that providing formally homeless individuals with supportive housing can easily reduce their cost to the public by over three-quarters. I cannot think of a reason why Nevada County would be different? 

The second has to do with a fear for safety, and a worry about liability. In this view, placing a few dozen individuals together, some of whom may suffer from mental illness and addiction, is simply asking for trouble. In a sense, the folks are correct: there will be problems, and maybe big ones. But that is life. What's more, the same issues that will inevitably arise in an Opportunity Village are going on as we speak in the forested tent encampments around the county—the only difference is that they will be more visible, and more difficult to ignore. In fact, the simple convenience of a tiny home and access to basic facilities—a door that locks, for instance—goes a long way in preventing the kind of crime and chaos that people fear will occur because of such a village. No doubt fire is a real concern. Many of the local fires of late have been created by homeless people in the woods. 

Finally, there is the concern that helping the homeless is slippery slope toward creating a welfare state, and that putting a roof over their head would threaten the ethic of hard work and discipline. Though I imagine few possess the audacity to claim it allowed, a brazen remark made by a particular county supervisor to the effect of "an Opportunity Village would encourage people to be homeless" leads me to believe this opinion is fairly common. Even if I were able to callous my empathy and sympathize with this view in theory, it is utterly disingenuous in practice, and reflects a profound and alarming ignorance about the issue of homelessness. For the vast majority of individuals, homelessness has nothing to do with hard work. Domestic violence, childhood abuse, mental illness, unemployment, and a lack of affordable housing are all far and away more relevant factors. Additionally, if keeping people in their own homes is indeed a priority, then providing supportive housing, which has a proven track record of alleviating chronic homelessness, should actually be prioritized, as opposed to shunned. 

Would building an Opportunity Village require sacrificing any other morals? 

3- Do you have too much to lose by taking action? 

One would hardly blame a person who refrained from running across I-80 during rush hour to save a stray cat. Though it would have been a selfless act, there would have simply been too much to lose, and inaction in this instance would be perfectly acceptable. 

Is the homeless situation in Nevada County an analogous example? 

4- Will taking action be helpful and effective? 

Undoubtedly, inaction toward a problem can be justified if the alternative action does nothing to solve the problem... 

The reality is that idea of the tiny-house community is fairly new, and thus, we lack mountains and mountains of empirical data to assist in answering this question. We do know, however, that supportive housing, at its most general level, can be enormously beneficial in pulling individuals out of chronic homelessness. We also know that cities around the nation are rapidly embracing this model. Reports so far have been overwhelmingly positive, particularly from the more heavily studied Opportunity Village in Eugene, which is serving as our primary village prototype. Finally, we know that this model, albeit new, is incredibly robust. The houses are easily constructed and mobile, allowing a community to stay intact and individuals housed even as it shifts geographically to accommodate changes. With input from community leaders and even the homeless themselves, we will do our best to cater this specific village to the needs of this community. In Eugene, management has asked three people to leave. Their girlfriends remained. The women felt they had no choice but to stay when they lived in the woods. They needed the “protection”. Many people once they got their feet on the ground segued out voluntarily to jobs, to housing, and to a better life. 

Often overlooked, however, is the potential an Opportunity Village has to benefit the community at large. Unregulated, yet already over policed homeless encampments in the woods pose an extreme fire hazard to our community, which is already plagued by wildfires ever year. Homeless encampments also often have serious negative environment impacts through improper waste disposal and trash generation. 

In action can no longer be a responsible option. Let’s be responsible, let’s do something.

Charles Durrett (53) 265-9980

Dominic Castro-Wehr (530) 913-5386

WHAT IS “HOUSING FIRST”?

Sierra Roots has committed to the “HOUSING FIRST” approach to end homelessness in our community. We can offer food, clothes, and help in a number of other ways, but until we can get permanent housing for our homeless people here, we can't really help them get out of homelessness. The micro-house Village is our answer to providing permanent, supportive housing for these folks.

NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS SOLUTIONS BRIEF – NOVEMBER 27, 2006“HOUSING FIRST” is an approach that centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly, and then providing services as needed. What a differentiates a HOUSING FIRST approach from other strategies is that there is an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve. HOUSING FIRST programs share critical elements:

  •  There is a focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain rental housing as quickly as possible and the housing is not time-limited;
  • A variety of services are delivered primarily following a housing placement to promote housing stability and individual well-being;
  •  Such services are time-limited or long-term depending upon individual need; Housing is not contingent on compliance with services – instead, participant must comply with a standard lease agreement and are provided with the services that are necessary to help them do so successfully.

A HOUSING FIRST approach rests on the belief that helping people access and sustain permanent, affordable housing should be the central goal of our work with people experiencing homelessness. By providing housing assistance, case management and supportive services responsive to individual or family needs ( time-limited or long-term) after an individual or family is housed, communities can significantly reduce the time people experience homelessness and prevent further episodes of homelessness. A central tenet of the HOUSING FIRST approach is that social services to enhance individual and family well-being can be more effective when people are in their own home. While there are a variety of program models, all typically include a separate and private home or apartment for each person that is clean, close to services and has easy access.

HOUSING FIRST, which is distinct and separate from “rapid rehousing” is a relatively recent innovation in human service programs and social policy regarding treatment of homeless individuals and is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progressions. Rather than moving a homeless individual through different “levels” of housing, whereby each level moves them closer to “independent housing” (for example: from the streets to a public shelter, and from a public shelter to a transitional housing program, and from there to their own apartment in the community).

HOUSING FIRST moves the homeless individual or household immediately from the streets or homeless shelters into their own apartments. HOUSING FIRST approaches are based on the concept that a homeless individual or household's first and primary need is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues that may affect the household can and should be addressed once housing is obtained. In contrast, many other programs operate from a model of “housing readiness” - that is, that an individual or household must address other issues that may have led to the episode of homelessness prior to entering housing.

Ruben's Story by Janice O'Brien

This is only one of many stories showing how difficult it is to get into rehab and the many hurdles to be crossed even for a very determined person who happens to be homeless. 

I got a call from our Secretary, Susan Molloy, giving me the phone number of someone who needs help with transportation to Behavioral Health the next day.  I called the number and learned that the caller, Ruben, was from Sparks, Nevada and had an appointment with the county worker, Jan Sprier, who would help him get into alcohol rehab. I promised to pick him up the next day and take him to the county office.

We arrive at the office at 1:00 p.m. and Ruben realizes he has left his phone charging at Pioneer Park. I hurry back to Pioneer Park to retrieve it for him hoping it hasn't been picked up by some other homeless person. I find it and take it back to him. He is so happy – without his phone, he's lost. We wait and wait. At 2:15 p.m. he is finally called in. I wait for him because he has no transportation back to Brunswick where he wants to stay at Hospitality House for the night. 

 It is so hard to stay sober on the streets. He is not eligible to go to CORE because he has no money and the county can only pay for 14 days. He knows he has a serious alcohol addiction and needs 10 to 12 months in rehab.  He wants desperately to get well. 

Ruben emerges from the inner office with a huge smile on his face. He is so happy. Jan Sprier phoned many alcohol and drug rehab facilities around the state to find him a bed. She has found an opening for him at the Redwood Gospel Mission in Santa Rosa. He's given an application that he is to fill out and fax to them before morning. 

He hoped to find help at Hospitality House. By now it is 3:00 p.m. but sign-in happens at 4:00 p.m.  Ruben had told me how he got to Nevada City. A sober friend of his in Nevada told him about Progress House in Nevada City.  (This is the Bost House that the county is set to renovate and begin operating as an alcohol/drug and mental health facility in March.)  It used to be a rehab house and his friend had gone there and did very well.  He felt sure that Ruben who was so motivated to get well would also do very well there. So, they both hitchhiked to Nevada City, went to Progress House and found it all boarded up. They were so disappointed but Ruben was determined to find a way and did not give up. 

He called Behavioral Health and set up an appointment. The problem was, Ruben didn't know where the office was nor how he would get there. That's when he met local homeless folks who told him to call me. He had tried to stay at Hospitality House the week before and was refused because he had been drinking. Since he had not had anything to drink that day, he was confident he would be able to stay there that night.

After leaving Ruben at Hospitality House, I called to get the bus schedule for Colfax to Santa Rosa.  The bus would leave Colfax at 8:00 a.m.  I had to get in touch with Ruben to tell him that I would need to pick him up at 7:00 a.m. I called Hospitality House only to find that he was not there. He had been refused again. This time because he was from out of county and out of state.

Where would he be? On the streets overnight would be dangerous for him. After several tries, I finally contacted him by phone. He would be ready to go by 7:00 in the morning. I worried about him all night and just prayed he would be able to stay sober and be ready to go in the morning.

Sure enough, there stood Ruben in front of Safeway in Brunswick, ready and waiting. He kept saying, “I'm so happy. I'm so happy”. The police had come around early in the morning and were going to move him on until he showed them the card I had given him from Sierra Roots. They recognized that he was getting the ride to Colfax and left him alone. 

But that's not the end of the story. Once on the bus to Santa Rosa, Ruben remembered he was to fax the application the night before. He called the Mission and they said that if they didn't receive the application, they might not be able to receive him. He called me in desperation. (Thank God, he had his phone). I told him he had a lay-over in Oakland and he might be able to fax it from there. When he arrived in Oakland, he had a hard time finding a place to fax it – I prayed, he searched, and finally found a place just in time – faxed it and got back on the bus just in time for the last leg of the journey. 

But that's not the end of the story either. Ruben had been told by someone that if he called ahead of time, there would be someone at the bus stop in Santa Rosa to meet him and take him to the mission. He called and called but couldn't get in touch with anyone. When Ruben got to Santa Rosa, no one was there to meet him and he had no idea where the Mission was. He texted me that he was going under a bridge and spend the night. He was so tired of all the disappointments of the day. Nothing seemed to be turning out for him. I encouraged him not to give up. He had come so far and was so determined. I told him to keep phoning over and over again, and I too would do the same. 

Finally, a young resident answered and told me they don't pick people up – there wasn't anyone there to go get Ruben. This young man was confused -  thinking Ruben was still at the Oakland bus stop. Finally, when he realized that Ruben was at the Santa Rosa bus stop, he was able to call Ruben and tell him how to walk about five blocks to the Mission. Ruben got to the Mission, texted me that they were very kind to him, took him in, gave him a bunk, and a hot meal.

He would never forget Sierra Roots and he was so happy. We can only hope that his rehab goes well and good things come to Rubin in the future.

 

WHY NOT A MICROHOUSE VILLAGE?

There is little affordable housing for our veterans, elderly, college students or homeless here in Nevada county. This is a fact! Even with a voucher for housing, veterans find nothing is available for them. A solution such as a micro-house supportive community would be a very viable solution, yet we still have objections. Here are the typical objections observed:

*     If you set up a micro house village, you would draw all kinds of other homeless individuals to this area. We don't want to draw more homeless people here - “if you build it, they will come.”

The truth is most homeless people stay in the area they call home – where they or their families were born, went to school, have friends and know the area. They do not move from place to place as people think. Most of the homeless in our area are 4th or 5th generation Nevada County people. They have been here since childhood and know this as their home – they just don't have a home they can afford having been out of a job or without a stable address for several years.

*     “I have to work for a living and I pay my taxes and pay rent. It would be nice for me to be given a free house with no requirements of paying rent or work. Building these micro houses and setting these homeless “freeloaders” up with housing and food etc. is just giving them a free ride. They should just get out and get a job like the rest of us.”

All residents of the Village will be required to pay rent – 30% of their income, which is what most financial counselors suggest be the percentage of income to be used for housing. Those who have no income will be asked to pay rent through “sweat equity” until they are able to find a job or get SSI or disability funding. Many of the chronically homeless people are disabled and mentally unstable as a result of living in uninhabitable living situations for years. According to “Housing First” results (see definition below), individuals will become responsible and productive in the community when they have a lockable and livable space for privacy and security. Also, all residents will invest in the sustainability and beauty of the village by creating and providing cottage industries that will support themselves and the village.

“Housing First” is the mandate of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an approach that prioritizes permanent supportive housing as quickly as possible to people experiencing homelessness, and then providing voluntary supportive services as needed. This approach respects client choice in both housing selection and in service participation.

*     Will this be permanent housing? Are we not then enabling them to continue to be homeless instead of empowering them to transition into more permanent housing in the larger community?

Yes, this will be permanent housing for those who want to live in the supportive community. They will then not be homeless, they will be working and paying rent for their home. This will be empowering them to become responsible and productive members of the community. Because they will have an address and a way to clean up and get assistance with resumes, they will be able to look for and secure jobs outside the village. Those who are too disabled to work a steady job, will be able to work within the village up to 10 - 20 hours a week, in cottage industries set up in the Village.

*     I don’t want “those people” in my neighborhood. Not in my back yard, please. (NIMBY) My property values will decrease.

We believe that having a well managed, beautiful, and sustainable community will create more benefits than difficulties. There will be less fire danger, more cleanliness in the community, greater health and more labor ready opportunities for the community. “Those people” are our neighbors and citizens.

*     Is the “Tiny House” Village just going to be a “K Mart” version of Habitat for Humanity?

Tiny House Villages are being established around the country as a viable, well planned and beautiful housing solution such as “Housing First” promotes. Cottage housing, such as the Quinn Cottages in Sacramento have been successful for the last 20 years and though the homes are much less expensive and smaller than those built by Habitat for Humanity, they are elegant, beautiful and creative and hold their value.

*      Why would there be political opposition to such a plan?

We haven't really heard the reasons why the city and county leaders here hesitate to get behind this idea of providing land and support for such a village. We must present all the plans and details of management of such a village and let the political leaders learn that to house the homeless individuals here will save them more money than they're spending now by not providing housing for these people. We are not asking for money from the county or the cities to do this. We will be presenting these arguments to both City Councils and the Board of Supervisors in the fall.

CRITICAL NEED FOR COMMUNITY

CRITICAL NEED FOR COMMUNITY

It's time for this community to make good on our promises to provide supportive community housing for those people in our town who are still without a place to call their own.  There is much talk about the fire danger those living in the parks, woods and under the bridges present to this community.  We are all aware of the unsightly camps and the unhealthy living conditions right here in Grass Valley and Nevada City caused by some inconsiderate and illegal campers. This is a "third world country" situation right here in our community that needs to be addressed!

Sierra Roots has put together a very well planned solution that we will propose to community leaders very soon.  Using the guidelines offered in Andrew Heben's book, Tent City Urbanism - From Self-Organized Camps to Tiny House Villages, we are ready to move forward as soon as we locate a suitable piece of land that can be purchased, donated to us through the Land Trust or an individual, leased, or leased to buy. 

First Stage: We are looking for 3-5 acres close to town or on a bus line. As a transitional stage, we will immediately set up weather-proof tents, port-o-potties, waste management services, and a water truck as a temporary sanctuary for any of those who are now living in the woods, parks, and under the bridges of Nevada City and Grass Valley.  This will be the first stage of providing for some dignity, health, safety and a step up from homelessness that Sierra Roots volunteers are willing to provide.  We will then begin building a Community Center that will serve the Village and begin interviewing those who want to make the Village their home.  We would like to have this in place before winter sets in.

At present we are working with a team of young and knowledgeable architects and city planners who are very enthused about planning, designing and building a supportive community micro house village that could house up to 30 to 60 of our homeless people here in Nevada County. And we are recruiting a Project Manager to oversee this project as soon as possible.  

2nd Stage: Through the winter, we will continue to serve hot, nutritious meals and begin to establish the management of the Village. A Village Council made up of residents and Sierra Roots leaders and volunteers will be elected.   There will be mandatory weekly meetings of all residents to ensure that all residents and volunteers have a voice and investment in the running of the Village.  The goal is that the Village become self-managed and sustainable.  

3rd Stage: When the winter weather begins to clear, we will begin to build the micro- houses.  Residents will be able to participate in designing and building their own homes.  Using the template of Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon and Hope Village in San Luis Obispo, and so many others that are beginning to crop up throughout the country, we know this will be a very well planned and well managed supportive community housing for our homeless people.  The village will also serve to keep the community at large safer and healthier.  It will also save the county and cities more money than they can imagine. Look for more information in the August newsletter or call Janice O'Brien at 265-5403 if you have questions, or want to help us. If you are not receiving our monthly newsletters, please send us your email via info@sierraroots.org.
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TREATMENT OF HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS AT THE HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM

We have had several complaints from our homeless friends, of poor treatment at the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Emergency Department recently.  On May 24th Sierra Roots’ board members met with those responsible for the ED services, to advocate for more sensitive and kinder treatment of our most vulnerable population. Also attending was one of our homeless people, who has been a patient at the ED several times. We met with Dr. Brian Evans, Chief Medical Officer, nurses Karin Zink, Caroline Hart, and Stephanie Kreiter, outreach coordinator.

Our meeting was very cordial and collaborative.  We expressed the reports of unkind treatment of several of our homeless who have come to the ED by themselves.  Our homeless disabled veteran - Matthew Coulter- told them about how some of the nurses talk about the homeless persons in degrading ways within earshot of that person.  And then sometimes when the homeless person is released, they might be told to go home and take a hot bath, and rest, without being sensitive to the fact that they have no home to go back to where they can recuperate.  

Sierra Roots offered to be on call for homeless individuals who need advocacy and care after the visit.  Sierra Roots is training advocates to take individuals to the ED, stay with them during their treatment, and then return them to their campsite. Advocates will assist the homeless individual find a primary care physician and medical insurance. We asked the hospital directors we met with to live up to the “kindness” motto that they have taken to be their mission.  And we now know who to contact when and if we or our homeless people have any more negative experiences in the emergency department at the hospital.

Update: Janice just had a negative unkind experience when taken to the ED on Thursday, June 2nd. A very unfriendly and negative nurse ignored her most of the time - efficient but impatient.  She will be contacting the head nurse of the ED department, as we discussed at the joint meeting.