Nancy Baglietto: On the road to self-sufficiency
We often think of homeless shelters in simple terms: provide a bed to get folks off the street for a night, serve a hot meal, and maybe offer a clean pair of socks.
To some extent, these services are accurate. Hospitality House alone provided over 22,000 bed nights in 2018 and served almost 40,000 meals.
But a bed and a meal are just a small fraction of what those struggling with homelessness need. At Hospitality House, our main goal is to provide long-term solutions. I thought I’d spend some time in this column explaining the variety of resources Hospitality House offers for the journey back to self-sufficiency.
Each day, our Street Outreach Team, along with representatives from County of Nevada and Turning Point, visit folks living on the streets or camping outdoors, offering food, water, clean clothes, rides to the shelter, the hospital, the food bank or related services. Experience and intuition help them find people with no address. It’s hard work, in the heat, the cold, the rain, but it’s the frontline in the battle to end homelessness.
IN THE FIELD
In many cases, the team brings people back to our shelter. Some arrive in our Homeless Access Transportation van, which was donated to us from United Way of Nevada County, while others come using bus passes we’ve given them, or on foot.
The bulk of our shelter beds are for individuals and families who maintain their sobriety and meet case management goals, but we’ve also opened an Outreach Dormitory for individuals who may be struggling with substance abuse or related issues, who just need a place out of the elements, a shower, a meal. This dormitory follows what’s known as a Housing First model, which I’ve discussed in a past column. Hospitality House welcomes people to come as they are to receive help and services — no strings attached. The idea is to first provide a stable living environment and then provide supportive wraparound services which lead to long-term self-sufficiency.
Contrary to what some believe, living on the streets and in the forest is rarely a choice. Our guests, including families, veterans, the elderly and the mentally ill arrive scared, exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, hungry. Most have no idea what to do next. Most need time to recover from the ordeal they’ve been through. They have colds, injuries or more serious medical problems. Some have children, including babies. And as we discussed in my last column, almost all have experienced some form of childhood trauma, otherwise known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Guests often arrive without money, without identification cards or phones. In many cases, they’ve lost everything they own, and come to us empty handed.
Thankfully, Hospitality House is able to offer trained case managers who can help with housing management, emergency assistance applications, life skills courses, job training, plus provide referrals to counseling, medical care, legal assistance and rehab programs.
Case managers help guests and families move out of the shelter after just a few days. Some folks are also provided rental assistance, security and utility deposits, legal services, moving costs, and more. With just a little help, guests are able to get or keep a steady job and get back into permanent housing very quickly.
Other guests need more time, and more help. Some need extensive medical care, for instance, and can recover from medical ailments for an extended period in our 4-bed Recuperation Dorm. Others need mental health services, safe houses for battered women, coordination with the Veteran’s Administration. Some of our local homeless people have also been self-medicating for years, typically stemming from ACEs or a mental health crisis, so our work involves getting them into appropriate treatment programs.
PARTNERS IN TRAINING
We also offer two job-training programs, which we’ve extended to partner agencies that serve the same or similar demographic. Our first program provides shelter guests with professional culinary training to help guests acquire jobs at local restaurants. Retail job training is offered at Bread & Roses Thrift and More, our thrift store next to Sierra Cinemas.
These programs were thoughtfully developed with our community in mind. Grass Valley and Nevada City are hospitality-driven towns, with an abundancy of hotels, mom and pop stops and locally owned restaurants. As such, our job training programs reengage our folks in workforce development in these most applicable areas, building upon their skills and confidence in the process. More than 50% of job training participants have directly secured local employment, including positions at fine dining establishments.
In addition to job training, we have several new projects in the works. Most important is housing — through a partnership with County of Nevada and Regional Housing Authority, 40-units of subsidized housing will likely be developed in 2021, should funding be awarded. Additionally, Hospitality House is working in conjunction with County of Nevada and other local nonprofit agencies to introduce a day services center to the community where homeless residents will have a welcoming place to go during the day with an opportunity to be proactive: take classes, meet with case managers for referrals, get therapy, meet with partner agencies, look for jobs, and fill out paperwork, in addition to accessing bathrooms, showers and food, all before they need to enter a shelter.
Soon we hope to offer an opportunity for homeless folks to have their pets at the shelter, too. This is a known barrier to entry and essential services. Pets provide extraordinary companionship and relief from stress, but our shelter does not currently have appropriate facilities for animals. We are actively working to remedy this and if all goes as planned, pets may be welcome as early as the fall of this year.
Working with many partners in the community, as well as our dedicated volunteers and donors, together we continually build upon our services to give as many people as possible the best chance at long-term self-sufficiency and a home.
Nancy Baglietto serves as executive director for Hospitality House, with previous executive experience for agencies focusing on homeless people, homeless animals and the parks they use.
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