BOARD AND STAFF
Board of Directors
Two years after moving to Nevada City to welcome retirement, Jim and Janice O’Brien found themselves taking in their three young grandchildren whose parents were dealing with serious addiction problems. The dire situation of the homeless became a personal struggle for their son and daughter-in-law, who could not sustain a safe environment to raise the children, and subsequently they fell into homelessness.
In 2004, Janice joined Utah Phillips, Joanna Robinson, and Cindy Maple and others to found Hospitality House which has become a place of dignity, safety and hope for hundreds of those who are in need of mental, emotional and physical help. In 2010, when Billy Kelly, a homeless and addicted man, froze to death, Janice felt moved to become an advocate for those in Nevada City who cannot or will not use the services of Hospitality House.
Janice’s focus and intention is to reach out to the homeless and marginalized who cannot stay at Hospitality House, but who still need help and connection to get well and become participating and accepted members of the community.
As a resident of beautiful Nevada County for the past 40 years, I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in this community filled with natural and community wonders. As an RN, over the years, I enjoyed working in the fields of home care, hospice, and behavioralhealth. Working in the field of behavioral health, I was attuned to the gaps in services for the homeless in our community. I became involved in volunteering with HOSPITALITY HOUSE in 2006. Through my working with HOSPITALITY HOUSE, I became acquainted with Janice O'Brien and learned of her vision for SIERRA ROOTS. Several years ago, I started volunteering with Sierra Roots and assisting with the cold weather shelter.
Appreciating SIERRA ROOTS dedication and service to the chronically homeless in our community, I am excited to work with SIERRA ROOTS and partner with the community in developing safe, sustainable housing for the chronically homeless. Here's to building a community that works for everyone!
Jim brings to SR his experience and perspective having served for over thirty years in planning, community development and affordable housing managing innovative plans, programs and projects with public agencies, including San Jose, Sacramento and Nevada County. As a consultant, Jim has helped public agencies throughout California and other states to administer funds for affordable housing, in particular efforts to address the foreclosure crises that resulted in the financial collapse period. In recent years, Jim formed his own firm and worked with many non-profit housing development and other organizations, nationwide, with technical assistanceresearching funding opportunities, grant management and organizational development.
Jim earned a Master of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University and Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Economics from Temple University, in Philadelphia. He has been a frequent speaker at planning, affordable housing and green building forums and conferences. In 2012 Jim was interviewed for an NPR program regarding the impact of foreclosures and sustainable solutions to the housing crises. Jim was interviewed for the local A Place to Call Home, a multi-media project in 2017 about his personal and professional experiences with helping people who were homeless to secure safe and affordable homes.
In early 2017, Jim started volunteering with Sierra Roots (SR). He was inspired by the work of the organization’s efforts to improve the lives of local people who are experiencing homeless. He is especially inspired by SR’s vision for building a village of permanent small homes to provide local folks in need of a safe place to rest, address their needs and build skills for self-empowerment and earning a living. Jim has been involved with SR’s committees securing grants and project development. He has also recently joined the SR Board of Directors.
Trained as an urban planner, Paul is a San Jose State University graduate and longtime member of the American Institute for Certified Planners. For a number of years he was a consulting environmental planner for both public and private development projects in the Bay Area and Sacramento area.
From 1997 to 2004 he was the city planner of Nevada City. “Being the city planner in my adopted hometown was a special time for me, both professionally and personally,” Paul says. “It was also when I developed a keen interest in affordable housing issues.”
In 2004 Paul moved to New York City (where he is originally from) and became the executive director of Churches United Corp., a community organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn with the mission “to discover new possibilities for housing, especially for those most in need.” In this job Paul worked both ends of the affordable housing issue, on project development as well as community organizing.
In the fall of 2016, Paul and his wife Dyanne moved back to Nevada City. One Sunday, at Nevada City’s St. Canice Church, he heard Janice O’Brien speak about Sierra Roots. Soon Paul was a Sierra Roots volunteer. Six months later he became a member of the Board. In January 2019, Paul stepped down from the Board and began the job of Sierra Roots executive director.