While Tuesday night marked the last night in eight years that the homeless-servicing Hospitality House relied on a local church to shelter its clients, Wednesday night marked the first night the nonprofit sheltered people at its own, newly completed facility.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot,” said Executive Director Cindy Maple.
“Our faith partners made our shelter happen.”
But even with Hospitality House opening the county’s first permanent homeless shelter, called Utah’s Place in honor of cofounder Utah Phillips, the nonprofit will still rely heavily on area churches and other faith partners to help feed and clothe guests.
“The churches have been great about stepping up until the bitter end,” Maple said.
For the last nine years, shelter services grew from winter months only to six months a year and finally to year-round coverage, all of which was accomplished by a rotation of churches taking turns hosting bused guests at night. During the days, Hospitality House would provide services to guests at its Welcome Center on South Church Street, a facility not zoned for overnight sheltering.
That small building also housed the operating offices for Hospitality House’s staff with as many as three people sharing a glorified closet.
Utah’s Place provides the staff with adequate, dedicated space for confidential meetings with clients.
“We’re still sitting here unpacking. The administration offices are the last to be addressed,” Maple said.
“I have boxes under my desk. I am not adjusted to my office yet, so I feel weird being in here.”
According to estimates from the 2013 homeless count nearly a year ago, as many as 500 people live without homes in western Nevada County, sleeping in alleys, cars, on couches or even in the woods.
More than 40 people were lined up outside Utah’s Place when it opened at 4 p.m. Wednesday at 1262 Sutton Way in Grass Valley.
The 6,500-square-foot facility will be available year-round as overnight sleeping quarters for more than 50 guests and will include dedicated space for homeless families.
The facility also features a 60-person dining area and commercial- grade kitchen with the dining area doubling as a gathering and instructional area.
“This is the first time I’ve let myself feel the excitement,” Maple said.
“We’ve had so many hurdles along the way that I embraced. It’s exciting to know it is real. It’s almost surreal.”
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.