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A roof overhead: Nevada County homeless advocates continue the fight for tiny homes and shelters

Some homeless advocates say tiny house villages, such as Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon, are a way to provide affordable security and shelter for homeless people.
Submitted to The Union

Sierra Roots is raising money to purchase a 4.5-acre property in Nevada City, which Janice O’Brien, the organization’s founder, said would be the perfect location for a tiny home village that could house about 40 homeless people.

The property, on the corner of Ridge and Zion Streets, is a “gateway” to Nevada City, so the village would have to look beautiful, O’Brien said.

Sierra Roots plans to build about 40 small units, which would serve as permanent housing for Nevada County residents who are currently homeless, along with a community center containing services and resources that could provide help for village residents struggling with mental health or addiction issues.

Residents would likely pay about 30 percent of their incomes — which could come from jobs or government assistance money — to rent a tiny home in the village, O’Brien said. They would also be held accountable for creating goals that could set them on “paths to health,” and making progress toward accomplishing those goals. Other details are still being fleshed out.

The idea has been in the works for more than a decade, and Sierra Roots has finally found the location to make it happen, O’Brien said.

But the organization will first have to raise about $800,000 to purchase the property.

According to O’Brien, Sierra Roots is pursuing grant money to cover some of the cost. The rest, she said, will come from community donations.

For more information on the village, visit sierraroots.org/microvillage-project. Donations can be made online through Sierra Roots’ website or mailed to P.O. Box 2086, Nevada City, CA, 95959.

Working with the county

Chuck Durrett, with McCamant and Durrett Architects, is working on a tiny home village proposal involving land owned by Nevada County, just west of the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on Maidu Avenue.

He hopes to lease about an acre of land from the county, where he’d like to build 30 tiny homes to house members of the local homeless population.

Durrett said he’s asked the county’s Board of Supervisors to consider his proposal close to a dozen times, but hasn’t had any luck.

“It’s disappointing that the county can’t take their eyes out of focus and see that there are people suffering out in the rain right now,” he said.

Cold weather shelters

Major Ray Yant, director of the Grass Valley Salvation Army, told The Union last month that organization won’t operate a homeless warming shelter this year.

Sierra Roots recently renewed an agreement with Nevada City to operate a warming shelter using city facilities during especially cold nights.

Hospitality House in Grass Valley also has 54 beds to house the local homeless population from late afternoon until early morning, though the shelter is often full.

There are no 24-hour shelter opportunities available for homeless people during cold, rainy winter days in western Nevada County.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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