Nevada City’s Sierra Roots wants to buy a permanent space in two years | TheUnion.com

Nevada City’s Sierra Roots wants to buy a permanent space in two years

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Before 2011, before Janice O’Brien, the president of Sierra Roots created the organization she’s dedicated to today, she experienced a series of losses that changed her life.

“My daughter in-law was murdered in one of the camps here,” explains O’Brien, saying she was killed while homeless, living in a tent in Nevada County. After her death, O’Brien watched over her son’s children, who was having a difficult time himself healing from the wounds of his wife’s death.

Her son, also homeless, soon became addicted to alcohol and died from an overdose.

“He drank himself to death,” said O’Brien.

The homeless population of Nevada County has dipped to 272 from 345 in nine years from 2009 to 2018, according to the Nevada County Health and Human Services. Still, 272 is far from Nevada County’s low count of 190 during that same time period.

O’Brien’s army of 18 volunteers have been working to serve those people on the specific days they’ve opened an emergency warming shelter. The organization currently operates out of a revolving door that includes either the Veteran’s Memorial Building or Seaman’s Lodge, depending on which facility is available.

The president of Sierra Roots, however, wants to change that. In two years, she hopes to move her organization to a 4.6-acre lot across from Sierra Presbyterian Church on Ridge Road, and build 36 to 38 small homes for homeless people.

“The best scenario would be if we were given one place where we could store our stuff and be ready at any moment to open without the need for the city to find a venue,” said O’Brien.

Sierra Roots has been helping homeless people in myriad ways, including a “boot fund,” whereby the organization collects boots for those who no longer have working shoes.

And, as of today, the group has opened its shelter doors to homeless people for nine consecutive days.

One thing the nonprofit still doesn’t have, however, is a permanent residence.

You can contact Sam Corey at (530) 477-4219 or email him at scorey@theunion.com


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