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.



As in years past, serious fire dangers and health issues are in our back yard once again.  We're barely into fire season and already two fires are thought to have been started by homeless people.  With the warmer weather comes more people out and about and cities, especially those dependent on tourism, don't want their homeless problem to be seen.  Their trash and their very presence is a nuisance to people hiking their trails or visiting their towns.

City Councils of both Nevada City and Grass Valley want the homeless campers in the forests and those hidden among the buildings to clean up their camps.  Sierra Roots and Divine Spark , working with the Nevada City Police Department will be informing our homeless friends of the plans to clean up by the end of June. The camps on Sugar Loaf are especially targeted because the city of Nevada City will soon be building trails there.  All campers will be given time to clean up their camps before the police come.  If personal things are put safely into a tent and everything else around the camp is cleared out, the police will not disturb their personal things. Some campers may be asked to move their tent and belongings to a less visible place so they won't be seen. Some homeless people will cooperate and clean the area but many will choose to leave everything and move to a new space probably deeper into the forest.

But the homeless problems persist.  Year after year the law enforcement use the same tired tactics as the previous year and the homeless people move from place to place with no real solution. 

This only points out the critical need to address this situation with a sustainable solution, stop the merry-go-round, and direct our energy toward something that has proven to work.  Communities around the western states have been turning to tiny house villages for part of the solution to homelessness. Tiny house villages have been springing up in towns across the country, (Portland, Olympia, San Luis Obispo, Santa Rosa, Eugene, Madison, Austin) demonstrating the feasibility of this model.  (for more information, visit

Sierra Roots is formulating plans for a similar self-governing tiny house village with communal kitchens and bath rooms but small individual sleeping units. It will be financed by private donors, grants, rent from the residents, and cottage industries that the residents will operate.  It will be governed by the residents, sustainable, and self-supporting.

Without a comprehensive plan for dealing with homelessness and the urgent need for more affordable housing, Nevada County's homeless problem will likely continue to grow in the future and we will continue to throw money at solutions that go nowhere.  We need your support to create a real and lasting solution for our chronically homeless community in Nevada City.

Janice O'Brien and Board of Sierra Roots



A Successful Story

Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon is a success story that could be repeated in our community.

In the past two years, Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon has provided transitional tiny houses for 85 homeless people, helping them to move out of homelessness. Evan, a disabled Air Force veteran, was homeless and living on the streets. Thanks to the stability and support atOpportunity Village, he now has veterans’ benefits and is living in an apartment near downtown Eugene.

In a recent survey conducted by the University of Oregon:

* 92% of residents reported that living in Opportunity Village gave them a sense of community

* 80% reported that living at Opportunity Village made them feel more independent

* Neighboring residents and businesses perceive the neighborhood surrounding Opportunity Village as safe, and are supportive of the program

Opportunity Village is cost-effective with operational costs only $3 per night per person. Residents pay $1 per night per person.

  • Funds needed to operate Opportunity Village for the coming year: $35,000.

For more information about Opportunity Village, check out their website:

Recommended reading: Tent City Urbanism by Andrew Heben

Sierra Roots: Food integrity in Nevada County

When many people think of a “soup kitchen” or a place that feeds the hungry, often they envision a scene similar to the one from the 1968 film “Oliver,” where a lumpy, gray porridge is being served to orphans.

When Sierra Roots started three years ago in Nevada County, the volunteers had an entirely different vision. They believed that healthy food fosters a healthy community. The organizers of Sierra Roots wanted to ensure that the population of those who are most in need in Nevada County could have access to, not just food, but to healthy and wholesome food.

Sierra Roots is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to stay “dedicated to creating a strategic infrastructure that will offer sustainable solutions to local homelessness, while supporting (Nevada County’s)farmers, economy, and community.” They are just one of the many useful food organizations in Nevada County who are dedicated to feeding the hungry in our community. But they are doing it in a new and innovative way. Anyone is welcome and they provide a meal that is organic and gluten-free, with several vegetarian and vegan options. They are careful to use separate dishes for meat and to make sure that there are options for people with allergies to soy, nuts or dairy. Sierra Roots is on the cutting edge of food distribution.

Every Thursday, Sierra Roots serves an organic meal to the public, with the help of the Gold Country Gleaners and our local farmers and gardeners. Usually, there are about 40 people who receive food, including a handful of small children. For many in attendance, this offering is the only organic meal available to eat all week. For some, it is the only meal that includes fresh, raw, organic fruits and vegetables that they will eat for an entire month.

“This meal rocks,” a food recipient named Rick exclaimed enthusiastically. “I feel like I’m eating at the Briar Patch or Whole Foods,” he remarked, referring to grocery stores known for their selection of high-quality, fresh and organic products. Rick has lived in Nevada County for the past five years.

"Sierra Roots is helping to combat the myriad of problems associated with poverty and malnutrition. When a community commits to providing healthy food for those who most need it, the community benefits exponentially."

Sierra Roots’ progressive and thoughtful approach to serving healthy food to those in need may be helping our community in more ways than one. In 2004, The American Society for Clinical Nutrition published a groundbreaking article about the correlations between poverty, obesity and malnutrition. The article explained that “many health disparities in the United States are linked to inequalities in education and income.” It provided evidence to support the fact that “the highest rates of obesity and malnutrition occur among population groups with the highest poverty rates.” The article linked studies about food insecurity, malnutrition and diets that are associated with lower food expenditures. It explained that, because foods that are high in fat and sugar often cost less than their more nutritious counterparts, they frequently become the choices of those requiring assistance for their food needs.

A lack of available nutrition for our most disenfranchised populations creates a negative feedback loop for local communities. When people don’t have access to healthy food for extended periods of time, they are often in need of other resources such as health care, mental health services, disability services and other services that could be reduced or mitigated by a healthful diet.

Sierra Roots is helping to combat the myriad of problems associated with poverty and malnutrition. When a community commits to providing healthy food for those who most need it, the community benefits exponentially.

Bill Kerr, a board member for Sierra Roots, came to a recent Thursday meal to support the volunteers.

“This work is important,” he said. “It is very important to a community of disenfranchised people.”

He explained that, ultimately, Sierra Roots would like to have a co-operative farm that could provide a place for our homeless and at-risk population to live and work. Until then, Sierra Roots is feeding the hungry with a comprehensive, whole-foods approach to nutrition. Sierra Roots is serving delicious and nutritious meals and they are well received.

If you would like to learn more or volunteer with Sierra Roots, you can find more information at

Hilary Hodge is a freelance writer living in Nevada County. She has written for EatDrinkBetter.comand for Mother Earth News Magazine.

Asked and Answered

Sierra Roots is actively assisting our homeless folks to find jobs, to provide transportation to doctors’ appointments, or job interviews. A few days ago, we posted this message on our Facebook page, as well as on the Nevada County Peeps Facebook site:

“We have a homeless man that Sierra Roots, is working with to help get him back on his feet. He is looking for a men’s bike to use to get to work. He has no means of transportation, but is serious about finding work. With some help from Sierra Roots and our citizens, we can make this a reality. He just delivered 20 of his resumes in Grass Valley and Nevada City – walking. Sierra Roots would like to find a men’s bicycle for him, so that he’ll have some transportation. Please let us know if you can help. Anyone with a man’s bike out there to help transform a life?”

Within 24 hours, Tamara Hiatt responded that she had a bike to give.  She delivered it to our Sierra Roots Board Vice President Pauli Halstead, who washed it up, filled the tires, and is going to deliver it to our young man today.

Thank you Tamara for your generous heart, and for being part of this compassionate and kind community.

Earth Day

Sierra Roots was very well received at Sierra College during the Earth Day celebration. They would love us to come back next year. I met so many very caring people who had no idea about the Gratitude Bowls. Lorraine, our newest member, talked to several organizations that would like more information about Sierra Roots. Water bottles advertising the  four restaurants currently providing Gratitude Bowls were passed out to many thirsty folks. It was a great day.

Kathy Waldron, Council Member

Sierra Roots

An Opportunity for Compassion


Sierra Roots has a weekly luncheon for the homeless. For many months I declined to participate, based on ideas I have had about not enabling or contributing to the homeless problem, wanting to focus more on solutions. How wrong my ideas have been!!! Participating in such a simple program, attending and serving healthy food to the homeless has enriched my experience as a human. Recognizing the raw vulnerability we all carry, whether living in homes or living closer to nature, none of us have the answers to the dilemmas our culture faces in this day and age. With just the smallest interactions I have had with our homeless population, I have discovered it is not so important, where we live, what we have, but more important is how we show up, what basic human kindness we show to one another. Beyond the scruffy exterior, there are talents unseen that come to light in these weekly gatherings. People taking food to friends who are to sick or fearful to attend the public luncheon. Just yesterday a homeless woman, quite young, parents had died, and her Aunt kicked her out of the house with a bus ticket and little more. She sat at the piano in the church and transported me to the finest concert hall with her musical ability. Who would have known such talent rested inside this woman, just waiting for the opportunity to emerge. For too long I have been caught up in labels…… I begin to discover what true value is held within each individual life, a precious lesson to discover. Sadness now takes the place of my hardline attitudes when I hear how these people are harassed and criminalized, (issued citations they cannot pay) for the slightest infractions. Or thrown in jail as a result of their response to being prejudged or succumbing to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Can we as a community find a more compassionate response to this widespread issue?

~By Douglas Raglin