‘I may have now, but I might not tomorrow’: No uptick in Nevada County homelessness amid COVID-19, but future concerns linger | TheUnion.com
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‘I may have now, but I might not tomorrow’: No uptick in Nevada County homelessness amid COVID-19, but future concerns linger

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

By the numbers

As of June 8

Number of COVID-19 cases: 50

Number tested: 3,346

Number in western county: 12

Number in eastern county: 38

Number of active cases: 7

Number of recoveries: 42

Number of deaths: 1

Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus

In recent months Janice O’Brien has not noticed a large uptick in local homelessness.

While the president of Sierra Roots has found some things more difficult during the pandemic — fewer senior volunteers available to serve free lunches and money has begun to run dry with the nonprofit’s fundraising events canceled — she has continued to provide services to those in need, and has no plans of stopping.

“We all have ways we can give to others — whether it’s money, time or prayer,” she said.

Although homelessness does not yet appear to be growing locally, O’Brien — like many other community members and public officials — is concerned that it will in the future, after the county’s commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium ends on July 31, the economy continues to sputter and as unforgivable rents finally come due.

As such, homelessness remains a priority for county officials and many community residents. During the last point-in-time count, Nevada County saw an increase of individuals and families experiencing homelessness, from 271 people in 2018 to more than 400 in 2019. Of the 410 homeless people counted this year, 21% of those surveyed had serious mental illness and 34% chronically experienced homelessness, facing four or more bouts of homelessness in a four-year period or having been homeless for over a year.

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According to a national poverty law center, homelessness is mostly caused by a lack of affordable housing options and poverty, followed by mental health or substance abuse issues coupled with a lack of services needed to combat those issues.

On the ground level, O’Brien believes that the housing first model holds true, and is trying to build a tiny house village community somewhere in Nevada County. But, she added, housing isn’t everything: “They need community, they need dignity, they need to be respected, they need to be treated well,” she said.

O’Brien’s mission is not rooted in charity, she said, but a mutual respect that spreads across humanity, with the understanding that, “I may have now, but I might not tomorrow.”

PLANNING FOR THE WORST

County officials say housing projects are continuing despite the pandemic.

One such program includes creating more resources for homeless individuals by building a 5-acre, $223,900 property on Old Tunnel Road, which is to include an estimated 6,000 square-foot center and about 40 affordable housing units with supportive services. The county has also earmarked $1.2 million to build affordable senior housing in Penn Valley. The Penn Valley Drive project will include 31 new units and is intended to be complete in March.

Nevada County Health and Human Services Director Ryan Gruver agreed with O’Brien’s sentiment, adding that the federal Paycheck Protection Program and eviction moratorium has likely prevented homelessness from rising. But he, like O’Brien, is concerned for the long term. Mike Dent, director of Nevada County Housing and Child Services, agreed.

“We kind of feel, because of the high degree of unemployment nationwide, that there will be an increase in distress level of paying rent,” he said.

The beginning of the pandemic saw an increased need for medical and food assistance programs, and as public budgets are being cut, Dent believes local governments will have to serve more people with less resources in future months. One opportunity, he said, is having the county continue applying for grant funding whenever possible.

But local officials have more plans. According to Dent, the county recently received a contract, not yet approved, of $1 million for a home loan program — $500,000 of which will go toward tenant-based rental assistance. The contract, set for approval sometime this month, allows the county to help at least 25 low-income renters stay in their apartments if they can’t afford their rent. Landlords, who are not made to comply with the program, will likely want to participate as they may be more strapped for cash.

Much remains the same in the housing world, as it did prior to the pandemic, according to Nevada County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lorraine Larson and Community Beyond Violence’s Tom Kellar, who helps people acquire housing.

The demand remains high for affordable housing and, during this time, the need is more important than ever as people are yearning to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus, Larson said.

“Our homeowners were so grateful to have a stable home so they could shelter in a place they felt safe,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity receives about nine calls per week and hundreds per year hoping to get on the pipeline toward homeownership, she said.

Just as the need remains constant, said Kellar, so, too, have the prices remained out of reach and the wait lists too long for people to acquire affordable housing.

Home prices remain stable in the county, according to a statement from the Nevada County Association of Realtors. The association expects sales to remain strong as it anticipates an “influx of buyers coming in from other areas” — a phenomenon they are calling “urban flight.”

WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?

In July, The Friendship Club received $100,000 — of a $1 million pot of money from the Homeless Resources Council of the Sierra — to defend against homelessness. The nonprofit that aims to empower young women estimated 172 high school students in Nevada County were homeless in 2018 — a 36% increase compared to 2014.

Friendship Club Executive Director Jennifer Singer said the nonprofit has recently shifted to connecting with young people online, and has been providing food and basic services, which is a bit outside of the nonprofit’s mission. Upon the last check, the executive director said she hadn’t noticed a large increase in homelessness, but that it’s also harder to connect with kids as school campuses have been closed.

Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said he also has not seen an increase, and that his staff at the county office has been diligently working to connect with kids and ensure their mental health remains stable during the uncertainty of the moment.

Student services program coordinator with the Superintendent of Schools Office Melissa Parrett agreed with Lay, adding that while it’s difficult to accumulate data on housing instability at the moment, county officials plan to get a better understanding in the fall.

MORE IN THIS SERIES

Regional housing trust fund in the works for Nevada County

Nevada County looks to emphasize smaller units

No fears of housing density among planning officials

COVID-19 protocols strain Nevada County homeless shelter’s budget

Tenants, landlords arrange payment options during COVID-19 eviction ban

Patchwork of tenant protections intact for now

The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County

Nevada City collaborates with county and nonprofits to move campers off Sugarloaf Mountain

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Nevada County housing market sees increased demand, limited inventory

Nevada County graduates consider options in wake of COVID-19

Nevada County students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships

Graduating seniors in Nevada county weigh financial, academic concerns for college

Career education program adapts to meet needs of students

‘I just want to play’: Players, coaches, ADs and officials eye safe, speedy return of high school sports

‘Should I jump into a career?’ Many questions remain for students, teachers and administrators as the future draws nearer

Nevada County middle schoolers, high school underclassmen unsure what to expect next year

Support systems for Nevada County teens go virtual during pandemic

Sierra College summer enrollment not slowing

‘The best they could’: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools reflects on the school year, ponders what’s to come this fall

‘I can’t see the bottom now’: Administrators consider where and whether to make layoffs amid revenue shortage

‘These kids want to ball’: Youth sports organizations grapple with tough decisions regarding COVID-19 safety

Hamstrung: Nevada County summer sports scene hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County theaters go dark for the year

Movie theaters struggle to cover rent, utilities in an industry that typically operates with narrow profit margin

‘Planning for all of it’: Nevada City Film Festival moves online for this year’s event

Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances

For Nevada County musicians, the show goes online

Nevada County artists adapt, host online galleries, concerts and workshops

Street fair cancellations in Nevada City, Grass Valley a huge economic hit

‘We are the recovery; we are essential’: Nevada County Arts Council survey reveals artists, art organizations are struggling

Who’s zooming whom? Creativity among Nevada County artists in the pandemic era

Nevada County Arts Council receives $112K Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education grant for new project

Nevada County nonprofit funding in jeopardy

Nonprofits struggle to serve clients during pandemic shutdown

Nevada County animal rescue groups see surge in fosters, adoptions

Nevada County’s thrift stores move ahead with reopening

Possible postponement, cancellation of Nevada County Fair would negatively impact several Nevada County nonprofits

Local nonprofits feeling the effect of canceled, postponed fundraising events due to COVID-19

Feeding Nevada County: Effort to help those hungry bolstered by partnerships between nonprofits (VIDEO)

Nevada County youth organizations adjust to public health requirements

Volunteer work faces changes at Nevada County nonprofits amid restrictions

‘Do you have reserves?’ Still much uncertainty over how nonprofits will fare in coming months, years

Government business continues in isolation during COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County, cities collaborate to reopen safely

Wildfire prep in Nevada County continues virtually during pandemic

‘This is why we signed up’: Librarian, homeless shelter manager continue working during pandemic

Financial aid offers much-needed relief in western Nevada County for those who can get it

Grass Valley trims staff in response to COVID-19 shutdown

Nevada County: Staffing, service reductions not yet needed

Nevada County property tax on par despite pandemic

Nevada County health workers say they currently have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment

Hospice of the Foothills continues providing end-of-life care during COVID-19 crisis

Senior care facilities on lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

Residents of Nevada County senior living communities staying connected

‘Continue to plan and prepare’: Hospital analyzes finances, anticipates federal funding to ensure financial stability

Nurses in Nevada County and the region talk about why they love their jobs

Nevada County not planning to release more detailed COVID-19 case data

Officials: Testing is key in calls to reopen in Nevada County, across California

Nevada County doctors change approach to providing care due to COVID-19

The trifecta: Public health experts recommend testing, contact tracing and supported isolation to phase into a reopened world

Investigating the impact: Lack of revenue, uncertain return date causes concern for arts and entertainment venues

Impacts of Idaho-Maryland mine to be revealed soon

Nevada County artists discuss how COVID-19 shutdown has affected them

‘The arts are essential’: Center for the Arts launches emergency relief fund

Real estate sales strong in Nevada County despite challenges

No slowdown seen in Nevada County construction industry despite COVID-19 lockdown

Nevada County government, home improvement and real estate representatives talk business during COVID-19

‘I’d like to place an order’: In light of COVID-19, the demand for home delivery services in Nevada County is at an all-time high

Grass Valley, Nevada City first to feel COVID-19 economic hit

See you soon? Small business owners struggle, but are hopeful for a brighter tomorrow in Nevada County

Nevada County businesses struggle navigating economic relief

Nevada County health care providers pivot on financial tight rope

‘A sudden and dramatic downturn’: Nevada County economy will be hurt for longtime following coronavirus slowdown, expert says

‘A recession, let alone a depression’: Western Nevada County businesses apply for federal loans, but most have yet to receive money

Nevada County businesses, governments, nonprofits navigate uncertain times, worry what’s ahead

RELATED RESOURCES

http://www.TheUnion.com/coronavirus

http://www.MyNevadaCounty.com/coronavirus

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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