Less than a week after the Truckee’s park directors granted a Nevada City-based organization use of a facility to feed homeless people there once a week, that approval was postponed amid residents’ concerns.
“Since the (Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District) board meeting on Dec. 13, we have received public feedback and concerns regarding the Divine Spark meal program proposed for the Community Arts Center in Truckee,” wrote Recreation Superintendent Dan O’Gorman in a Tuesday message to Divine Spark founder Thomas Streicher.
“These concerns are related to use compatibility, neighborhood impacts, law enforcement issues, etc., that we would like to discuss further,” O’Gorman wrote in the message obtained by The Union.
Specifically, O’Gorman told The Union on Dec. 20 that both residents around the arts center, as well as official from Nevada City outlined concern of homeless people coming early and sating late after the program, making messes in the neighborhood, as well the potential for panhandling on public property.
“The general manager and the board just felt we wanted to at least ask those questions to Dr. Streicher and see if they could be addressed before final approval,” O’Gorman said.
Streicher had been approved for a six-month lease of the Community Arts Center’s kitchen, located at 10046 Church St. in Truckee, to feed homeless and below-poverty individuals once a week on Wednesdays, representing the nonprofit’s expansion into east Nevada County.
“It’s disappointing to get this letter after they approved the meeting,” Streicher said. “We’ll do the best we can to address there concerns.”
However, O’Gorman said the biggest issue was that the public needed to officially weigh in.
“We didn’t really notify the neighbors prior that this was even going to be on the agenda so we wanted to give them a chance to have some input as well,” O’Gorman said.
The matter will be re-evaluated at the park’s Jan. 24 board meeting.
Divine Spark already provides 250 vouchers every week to homeless people who can redeem them at eight Grass Valley and Nevada City businesses. Founder Thomas Streicher said his organization services 374 people in western Nevada County.
Previously Divine Spark provided food for western Nevada County homeless people every Sunday at the Madelyn Helling Library and subsequently at the Veteran’s Building, both in Nevada City, until the city no longer permitted use of the facility amid concerns of neighbors about affects on the surrounding area.
“We are putting the approval of your application on hold until the board has time to deliberate information being provided from our community and from representatives from Nevada City,” O’Gorman wrote.
Streicher had planned to feed approximately 27 homeless individuals in Truckee on Wednesdays, starting in January. He also anticipated he could serve as many as 60 below-poverty people, with goals to someday expand to multiple days per week.
“There are people that are hungry out there and the concern is getting greater,” Streicher said. “People need to come together as a community to help each other through these hard times.”
While Streicher said the re-evaluation effectively delays his plans in Truckee, he said at least the backlash at his proposal is sparking conversations on homelessness in that community.
“On the good side, this is raising awareness of this plight,” Streicher said. “People are freezing to death up there.”
Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District’s Jan. 24, board meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Community Recreation Center.
For more information on Divine Spark, visit divinespark.us.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.
“There are people that are hungry out there and the concern is getting greater.”
— Thomas Streicher,