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Nevada County connects community to homelessness fight

Nevada County is making it easier than ever to help the homeless this giving season.

The county has teamed with Connecting Point 211 to collect volunteer opportunities specifically aimed at ending homelessness, in addition to the varying options available on its main volunteering website: https://volunteerhub.connectingpoint.org.

Connecting Point Executive Director Ann Guerra said the county initiated the website after community members and organizations wanted a way to be more engaged in a solution to helping their homeless neighbors.

“There are people all the time asking what can we do or trying to start grassroots things,” Guerra said. “By collecting all the ways people can have an impact and making it available in one place, the goal of the county is to inform people of the great things local organizations are doing so they can step up and get involved easily.”

Guerra said she hopes the dedicated homelessness volunteer hub will not only help make it simple for people wanting to donate their time, but will also shine a light on the demand for people to help out.

“There’s a tremendous need and people can make an impact in many, many ways,” Guerra said. “We’ve reached out to all the organizations we’re aware of and we’re trying to reach out to more so they can attach themselves to this effort and we can funnel people to them. Some of these organizations are coming into the volunteer hub as a response to wanting to identify themselves as part of this important effort.”

Community Inclusion

The “Housing First” policy adopted by Nevada County to deal with its homelessness problem prioritizes solving the leading cause of housing insecurity: the need for immediate shelter.

In “Exploring Effective Systems Responses to Homelessness,” a book reviewing homelessness policy research, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness found the housing first strategy is effective because it solves the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness, provides opportunities to offer comprehensive long-term care, and also crucially satisfies one of the leading long-term determinants of homelessness: social integration.

According to research from mental health and criminal justice researchers at Wesleyan and Yale universities, integrating the homeless into society and the amount of community support for homeless initiatives are major indicators of success in reducing housing insecurity.

“The people we worked with needed to see themselves — and be seen as — full members of their neighborhoods and communities,” the researchers wrote. “Helping the most marginalized people in society feel comfortable in a new and alien environment, where they were isolated from their peers, required a different approach that went beyond finding them a place to live.”

Having community members involved and committed to homeless reducing efforts could be the difference that successfully reduces homelessness in Nevada County.

“Efforts to eliminate homelessness in Nevada County will be the most successful if we come together to work on solutions. We see time after time that focused efforts coupled with the community’s engagement can move the needle on these tough issues,” Housing Director Mike Dent said in a press release. “The volunteer hub already engages community members with our non-profits to help make Nevada County a better place to live. Our community will be better together if we support those non-profits with a mission to help those in need.”

People can find volunteer opportunities to help the homeless at http://www.ConnectingPoint.org/BetterTogether.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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