Nevada County People: Aug. 19, 2008 |

Nevada County People: Aug. 19, 2008

You may not like homeless people loitering near your house and may even call the cops if an uninvited guest camped on your land, but for Cindy Maple (pictured above) helping the homeless is a vocation.

Maple is the director of Hospitality House in Grass Valley, a shelter for the homeless.

Though people often cringe at the outward appearance of the dispossessed, Maple’s life revolves around such people. She helps them meet their basic daily needs as well as get back on their own feet to support themselves.

“I identify a lot with my guests, because I’ve had to survive a lot,” Maple said. “But I’m the kind of person who never gives up hope. It’s just something I’ve been blessed with. I’m very resilient.”

Maple was born in San Jose and raised in Los Angeles. Growing up with her mother and stepfather who were gospel singers, she and her six siblings had to pass through numerous phases of financial hardship.

Despite the cash crunch, Maple’s parents would take in homeless people – particularly when they owned a Christian deli in Grass Valley for a short while.

“I became accustomed to the lifestyle of helping people in need,” Maple said, in retrospect.

Later on in life, Maple worked for several years as an employment counselor in Nevada County’s Department of Social Services.

“As an employment counselor, I worked with people to overcome barriers to employment and become self-sufficient,” she said.

Maple’s work experience at the county prepared her for her role at Hospitality House.

“I know there are resources out there,” she said. “I know who to go to for help. I know if there’s anyone who can make a difference, we (at Hospitality House) can.”

But Maple ensures her guests at the shelter follow strict conduct rules.

“I have a very low tolerance for a number of behaviors,” she said. “For instance, any type of verbal abuse is not O.K. I have zero tolerance for any kind of physical abuse.”

Maple, who’s in her 40s, said she trusted her instincts to determine if she might have trouble with any particular person.

“My instincts are pretty good,” she said. “I work closely with the Grass Valley Police Department. I also know I have a house full of guests who would watch out for me.”

It’s often a challenge for Maple to distance herself from the homeless situation her guests are in.

“But I know how to pull things back into perspective,” she said. “The way I do it is, I take action.”

This summer, Hospitality House is serving an average of 25 to 35 homeless people every weekday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At Hospitality House, the homeless can do their laundry, take a shower and eat lunch. The overnight shelter of Hospitality House will resume in mid-October, Maple said.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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