Point in Time Count offers snapshot of homelessness in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Point in Time Count offers snapshot of homelessness in Nevada County

Lisa Weaver models a cute crocheted hat she picked up, along with a coat, during the Nevada County homeless point-in-time count at Interfaith Food Ministry Thursday.
Photo by Liz Kellar/lizk@theunion.com

Adam Cook represents exactly who the Nevada County homeless Point-in-Time Count is trying to reach.

Cook was at Thursday’s “count event” at Interfaith Food Ministry with a friend, enjoying a hot lunch and hoping to gather as much information as possible.

“We’re trying to see what kind of resources are available to us,” Cook said. “We’re new to this situation. We don’t know which direction to go.”

Cook, who has been homeless for just a few months and has been staying at Hospitality House, said he appreciated having access to so many services.

“It’s nice to have it all in one place, not running all over the county,” he said.

Wednesday night and Thursday marked the start of Nevada County’s annual Point-in-Time Count of homeless individuals and families, conducted by the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras, a collaborative group of agencies and nonprofit organizations. This year, a number of Nevada County organizations hosted events where volunteers conducted brief surveys and provided food and services, in Grass Valley, North San Juan and Truckee.

Community partners also opened their doors to conduct surveys and offer gift cards, including Hospitality House, SPIRIT Peer Empowerment Center, the Family Resource Centers, and the Madelyn Helling and Grass Valley Libraries.

Homeless counts are required to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though HUD only requires a full count of both unsheltered and sheltered individuals every other year, Nevada County now conducts a full count each year.

This is the first year that Interfaith Food Ministry served as an event location, said Executive Director Phil Alonso.

“It was easy for us to say yes to the event,” Alonso said, adding that it was a convenient, safe facility for clients to get to. “We were already set up for this, and we have the space.”

As people arrived, they were checked in and handed a small card attached to a lanyard listing the offerings available: food, surveys, resources and services. On the back of the card were menu options including three kinds of soup and sandwiches for to-go lunch bags. Clients could check off what services they received and highlight which they found most important.

“Really, the idea is that everybody is treated like a guest,” Alonso said. “Often, they can’t even get anyone to even look them in the eye.”

Services were set up to minimize the time in line, he said, adding, “These folks always have to wait.”

In one big room, guests could get warm clothing, talk to county employees about eligibility for benefits, get legal advice from the Public Defender’s Office and even obtain flu shots, some vaccinations and Narcan from Public Health nurse Diane Miessler. Free cell phones with unlimited talk, text and data were being offered by SafeLink Wireless.

“You cannot do anything without a phone, except a lot of footwork,” said client Jacob Keifer. “If you lose your job and you don’t have transportation, a phone becomes essential. You depend on it — it’s your lifeline.”

Keifer, a musician, said he has been homeless for about two years and moved to Nevada County about eight months ago.

“At this point, I need all the services I can get,” he said, adding that being homeless is affecting who he is as a person. “I’m getting tired of it. I’m just hoping and wishing for a brighter future, you know?”

The warm sunny day meant lower counts at the Thursday events, said Nevada County Housing Resources Manager Brendan Phillips.

This is the first year the county has done a parallel event with the Family Resource Center in North San Juan, Phillips said, adding, “The community out there has really stepped up.”

Counts had been done the night before both at Hospitality House and the emergency shelters run by Salvation Army and Sierra Roots, he said.

“With weather like this, street outreach will be key,” Phillips said, noting that teams would be going out to various locations over the next 10 days.

Nevada County should have a rough estimate of the total count by Feb. 3, Phillips said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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