Grass Valley OKs plan to add respite, low-barrier beds to emergency homeless shelter
Utah’s Place has permission to handle more than it has in the past.
Grass Valley planning commissioners on Tuesday approved allowing the emergency homeless shelter to add 15 beds on a permanent basis.
Four of those will be respite beds, available 24-7 for guests who have just been released from the hospital. Eleven will be low-barrier beds for guests who would previously have been excluded because they could not pass a breathalyzer or drug screening.
Those 15 beds, which will be downstairs in an area converted from administrative office space, replace emergency beds approved in 2016 that were available during the winter months as cots set up in the dining area.
The upstairs dorms, with 54 beds for clean and sober guests, will remain the same.
Community Development Director Tom Last stressed that while guests can use the low-barrier beds while they are under the influence, they cannot consume drugs or alcohol while on the premises.
As part of the expansion Hospitality House, which runs Utah’s Place, will hire an additional overnight staff person, Last said. It also will hire three new community liaison positions in order to minimize impacts on the neighborhood. Two will assess the needs of homeless people and business owners in the Brunswick Basin area on foot. Another will drive a van, providing transportation to services like Behavioral Health, Spirit Peer Empowerment, Connecting Point, One Stop job readiness, legal counsel and AA meetings.
Last noted there have been complaints about shelter guests, particularly after they leave in the morning, but that Hospitality House works closely with the city to resolve issues. He added there is a high concentration of homeless in the Glenbrook Basin, and it is hard to determine which are shelter guests.
Several changes have been made to the permit to provide more effective enforcement, Last said.
According to Hospitality House Executive Director Nancy Baglietto, the shelter’s Good Neighbor Policy and Mutual Respect Code had not previously been part of the conditional use permit, but now will be.
“Grass Valley would like to be able to take stronger action if anything goes wrong,” she said. “We want to be a good partner, that’s our goal … We want to alleviate some of the tensions.”
Baglietto said each shelter guest has to sign off the five-page document, which includes everything from agreeing to follow a case management plan, to agreeing not to spit and not to loiter in the area during the day.
Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard told the planning commissioners he spent a lot of time reviewing the previous conditions and making changes to improve compliance.
“The idea is that the new outreach workers will work with guests and local businesses to ensure any potential issues are being addressed,” he said.
The Good Neighbor Policy, which is reviewed and approved by the police department, talks about those kinds of impacts and provides sanctions for violators, Gammelgard said.
“If there was a repeated and documented situation and Hospitality House wasn’t taking steps to prevent that, then we’d be able to trigger a review of their permit,” he explained. “We believe (the permit conditions) strike a strong balance between providing services to the homeless, and also protecting the quality of life in the (Glenbrook) Basin.”
Both Gammelgard and Baglietto said it will be all about good communication.
“There will be violations from time to time, but they can call us and ask to correct the situation, and we will,” Baglietto said. “Our goal is to intervene before Grass Valley Police has to get involved.”
Baglietto told the planning commissioners the changes are being made in order to continue to qualify for HUD funding, which accounts for $200,000 to $300,000 of the shelter’s $1.4 million operating budget.
Those funds are tied to a housing-first model where no one gets turned away, Baglietto said, adding that if the shelter does not comply with that model, it will no longer qualify for funding.
“We’re trying to lower the number of barriers, make it more accessible,” she said.
According to program manager Isaias Acosta, the shelter plans on providing the four recuperative care beds by Oct. 1 and the new staff members will start that week.
The 11 new beds will be available only to clean and sober guests until the remodel of the downstairs is complete, Acosta said. That work is in progress and could be done by the end of October.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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