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Coming together: Housing first approach touted by homeless advocates

“The best way out of homelessness is a house,” Hospitality House Executive Director Nancy Baglietto said to those in attendance of Saturday’s League of Women Voters forum on implementing new strategies for housing western Nevada County homeless.

Those in the crowd were on hand to learn more about how Hospitality House, Nevada County and the city of Grass Valley plan to move forward with developing a 5 acre parcel at 936 Old Tunnel Road to help combat homelessness.

“It sounds pretty obvious, but that is the answer. The best way to work with homeless people is to follow the Housing First motto.”

Nevada County Director of Housing and Child Support Services Mike Dent joined Baglietto in outlining their shared vision as well as what can be expected from the 5 acre parcel slated for 40 low income housing units and a homeless day center.

“There will be job assistance, it all will be within walking distance. It’s perfect and I think that’s why the (supervisors) did a 5-0 vote,” Dent said.

The day center is slated to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering van transport, mail pickup, lockers, computers to assist with housing and jobs, and will even make accommodations for pets.

“People will actually be in a welcoming place where they are wanted, where they can access services — they don’t have to go all over town with bus passes trying to get places,” Baglietto said of the day center. “They are not going to be kicked out at the end of the day.”

Programs will also be developed to allow folks to take part in the day-to-day operations of the navigation center, allowing for opportunities and helping to build ownership and benefits for those people.

During last year’s point in time count, 272 homeless were counted. An additional 300 to 350 homeless youth are also believed to be in Nevada County that pass as couch surfers.

“We have our marching orders to find out what these real numbers are,” Baglietto said. “Millions of dollars are spent every year to try and alleviate (homelessness) and the answer is housing.”

Baglietto further defined the Housing First approach as:

– An evidence based approach to quickly connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements. The priority is to immediately transition folks into permanent supportive housing rather than wait until the household’s mental and/or medical health is stabilized.

“It’s taken us a while to kind of move into this understanding of what best practices are about and what is successful,” Baglietto said.

“There is a big public sentiment … that somehow or another you are less worthy if you have substance abuse problems, you don’t deserve housing because you did these things that don’t afford to a house.”

“Well, we don’t look at mental illness and substance abuse the same way as somebody who has cancer, or some other illness, but we need to look at it that way, because people, they struggle,” Baglietto said.

The project is slated to be back before the board of supervisors for a final vote Jan. 22.

Following final approval, Hospitality House will then submit the project in an application for No Place Like Home funds, which would cover 30 percent of the project if awarded.

“We are among one of the highest scoring applications that they’ve seen in a long time,” Baglietto said regarding the No Place Like Home funds.

“That’s because we’re ready.”

To contact Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez email, efunez@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4230.

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