Keri Brenner

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August 21, 2014
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Taking 'The Long Walk' in homeless shoes

Nevada County’s first walk-a-thon for the homeless invites the community to join the party and, at the same time, invoke the experience of being “on the move,” without a home.

“It’s not actually a long walk,” said organizer Joanna Robinson of “The Long Walk,” a 1.8-mile trek around the Brunswick Basin area of Grass Valley set for Sept. 6. “It’s to show symbolic solidarity with homeless people, who have to spend much of their days walking.”

The title was conceived by Cindy Maple, executive director of Utah’s Place, the area homeless shelter run by Hospitality House. At 4 p.m. daily, guests of the shelter make “The Long Walk” back to their temporary home for their night’s lodging.

“It’s the walk back to the shelter, but it also, to me, represents what our guests do all day, they walk and they walk,” Maple said. “For me, that’s why the name resonated with me, because that’s what they do every single day.”

The need to walk is to “stay on the move” and remain invisible — instead of risking being “moved along” by law enforcement, Maple said. It’s also to find a bathroom or a water fountain.

Participants in “The Long Walk” probably won’t experience all those needs, but they will be able to use their imagination.

“We won’t be walking all day, like they do,” said Robinson, founder and development director of Hospitality House. “We will not be moved along, like they often are.

“We won’t be looking for bathrooms and water, the way they do all day,” she added.

The fundraiser starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 6 at Utah’s Place. Registration ($25 per person; additional pledges from friends and family are encouraged) is available online in advance at or from 7:30 to 9 a.m. the day of the walk. Proceeds benefit Hospitality House, which is still paying off its loan to purchase Utah’s Place, opened within the past year.

The first 250 people to register get a free T-shirt. Prizes for the largest teams or the most pledges — including trips to Disneyland, Lake Tahoe, amusement parks and group bowling — will be awarded at a barbecue afterward at Utah’s Place.

Teams are encouraged: Briar Patch Co-op in Grass Valley has already fielded a group of walkers, Robinson said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to connect with their co-workers, families and children,” she added. “It’s a great chance for parents to help their kids understand who the homeless are, what poverty is and to make direct action in the form of a demonstration of compassion for people in need.”

Walkers may also wish to make clear their reactions to a recent Nevada County Civil Grand Jury Report entitled “Panhandlers, Vagrants and Transients in a Neighborhood Near You?” Robinson said.

Some people told The Union the term “PVTs,” used in the report, was offensive and that the numbers cited were exaggerated.

“There’s a lot more going on (with homeless individuals) than just panhandling,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted that poverty, according to Gandhi, was “the worst form of violence — I think he said that because it leads to so many forms of suffering.”

During “The Long Walk,” participants will have a moment to ponder that experience.

“We hope we will be looked at — but not with disdain, as they often are,” Robinson said. “We hope we will be judged for our compassion — and not, as they often are, for their experience of poverty.”

“The Long Walk” route travels up Sutton Way from Utah’s Place to Brunswick Road, then across the freeway bridge to Maltman Drive, then Maltman Drive to Joerschke Drive, then Joerschke to Nevada City Highway, up Nevada City Highway to Brunswick, up Brunswick across the freeway bridge to Sutton Way, and finally back up Sutton Way to Utah’s Place. People may walk only part of the route if they wish and then head back to Utah’s Place.

The post-walk barbecue is expected to start at 11 a.m.

Check ">the website for more information.

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Aug 22, 2014 05:26PM Published Aug 22, 2014 10:36AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.