Nevada County weighs fairgrounds as site for homeless |

Nevada County weighs fairgrounds as site for homeless

By the numbers

As of April 3

Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 30

Number in western county: 10

Number in eastern county: 20

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Homeless people isolating in camps and outdoors may soon find out whether they are welcome at the Nevada County Fairgrounds while weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a early as next week, Nevada County officials along with Grass Valley and Hospitality House will determine whether to use the fairgrounds to house the homeless, as part of a range of planning options they’re exploring.

Officials on Friday had a walkthrough at the fairgrounds to survey the space and determine what would be needed if they decide to go forward with the move.

Last month, as part of Hospitality House’s emergency plan, the county used motel vouchers to move some shelter guests into motel rooms to protect the most at-risk among them and maintain social distancing guidelines.

Since then, some homeless people have complained that they are not able to get into shelters for lack of space and want more shelter spaces available so they don’t have to isolate unsheltered.

“They’re leaving people out in the cold,” said Adam Cockrell, a homeless person unable to find shelter. “I know there’s at least 20 or 30 other homeless people in the area (who can’t get into shelters). Some of us are going to get the (unpleasant) end of the stick one way or another.”

According to county Housing Director Mike Dent, one reason the county is looking into the fairgrounds is for its scalability, allowing the county to be flexible as the crisis unfolds. The scale of response necessary to combat the virus would ultimately determine if the site is used, and how much is needed — whether just a building or a space big enough for the entire homeless population.

According to county Health and Human Services Director Ryan Gruver, the site could be used for the homeless or coronavirus-related response because it was determined it wasn’t tied up for use by the California Office of Emergency Services or for other agencies.

The county will look toward its partners in Hospitality House and Grass Valley in determining what criteria is used to decide whether to go forward.

“We would support Hospitality’s House’s criteria,” Dent said. “We want to support them in their goals and their mission and protocols.”

Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout said the city supports the move.

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email or call 530-477-4229.

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