Nevada City Council votes to keep existing terms of cold weather shelter agreement
The Nevada City Council on Wednesday rejected a proposal to expand the terms of an existing working agreement to open an emergency shelter for people in need during bad weather.
“The emergency shelter plan we currently have in place is the right solution for Nevada City,” said Mayor Jennifer Ray.
“It does provide shelter when temperatures are freezing and is designed to keep people from freezing to death when the Salvation Army is full,” she added. “I see no reason to change this. We have neither the available resources nor the volume in this small town to absorb a large group of homeless.”
Citing concerns about facilities management and weather fluctuation, council members turned down a suggestion by Janice O’Brien, president of Sierra Roots, to open city facilities to accommodate the local homeless population during “all inclement weather” and to dedicate the Seaman’s Lodge building in Pioneer Park as a specific venue for this use.
“They felt that the existing agreement has worked very well,” said City Manager Mark Prestwich. “No modification is necessary to address the inclement weather.”
Vice-Mayor Evans Phelps agreed.
“We did not change the agreement, we added an emphasis that the city manager could have the flexibility in the conditions they wanted to open the shelter in weather hot and cold, and if the facility is available,” she said.
Sierra Roots, a nonprofit based in Nevada City, is one of several organizations that entered into a working agreement with the city in March 2014 to coordinate the operation of emergency lodgings for people without permanent housing when extreme weather hits.
Under the existing agreement, the city manager has the discretion to open a shelter when the weather falls below 28 degrees and dry, or when it is 32 degrees and wet.
The same guideline also provides direction to staff to open the shelter when the existing Salvation Army Cold Weather Shelter on Alta Street in Grass Valley is full or when transportation to that facility is not available.
O’Brien suggested that the council members consider expanding the agreement to allow the shelter to open when there are consecutive rainy days.
“When you are in the rain for couple of days, everything is drenched wet,” said O’Brien. “I want to be open even when it’s not cold.”
She also recommended that the city open a shelter when the temperature rises above 90 degrees in the summer and when the air is smoky from fires.
But what got several council members concerned was O’Brien’s request to designate Seaman’s Lodge as the sole venue for shelter use.
“Seaman’s Lodge is part of the park, it has to serve the entire community,” said Phelps. “We can’t prioritize just the homeless there.”
No vote was made at the meeting, Prestwich said, adding the intention of the discussion was to provide direction to staff.
During a phone interview with The Union on Thursday, O’Brien said she looks forward to working with city staff.
“The city manager and I work together well as far as when it will open, and how to open it,” said O’Brien, adding, “It’s a running dialogue. We will continue to talk.”
To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please call 530-477-4236 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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