Positive outcomes seen after 30-day pilot project that moved homeless off Nevada City’s Sugarloaf Mountain | TheUnion.com

Positive outcomes seen after 30-day pilot project that moved homeless off Nevada City’s Sugarloaf Mountain

More than half of the homeless people moved off Sugarloaf Mountain for a 30-day pilot program in early June have been placed in a stable living situation, officials say.

On June 8, Nevada County — in collaboration with Nevada City and a host of nonprofit agencies — launched a pilot project to move the homeless population into temporary housing at the Northern Queen Inn. They were asked to stay at the hotel for 30 days and work with case managers from Nevada County’s Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement (HOME) team to identify goals for themselves — the primary one to be permanent housing. Mike Dent, director of Housing and Child Support Services for Nevada County, stressed the importance of the wraparound services, with the project participants deciding for themselves what they needed most.

Many of the participants had been homeless for a very long time — in one case 17 years, said Joe Naake, supervising outreach case manager with Hospitality House.

“The premise was community engagement,” Naake said, explaining the Sugarloaf participants were chosen for the pilot program because they had formed a de facto community for more than two years and wanted to preserve the social structure. “We moved the whole community in, with the amenities that would allow someone to come out of crisis mode.”

Having a month to enjoy creature comforts and not having to worry about theft or law enforcement made everyone’s lives easier and made the process of engaging with social services run more smoothly, Naake said.

“That was a huge positive impact,” he said. “We were building trust with them. … We presented opportunities for a number of people, giving them an alternative to going back to camping. They got to a place where they could accept that — or at least give it a chance.”

Of the 17 that went into the Northern Queen, a dozen have transitioned into a more stable environment. Two have been housed in a trailer, while three are camping on private property and working in exchange for rent.

Two have been placed in Advocates for Mentally Ill Housing, for those with mental health disabilities, Naake said, adding, “One got a job, he’s doing spectacular.”

One has entered a residential treatment program, and three are still being housed at the Northern Queen due to health vulnerabilities.

And one man was given assistance in relocating to be closer to family in Colorado.

“He got himself unstuck,” Naake said. “He’s off to his new life.”

A few of the original group would not engage, Naake acknowledged.

“They weren’t ready for that next step,” he said. “But now they know we exist. … A lot of times, it just takes time.”

Naake said the county now is in a conversation about possibly replicating the program.

“What did we learn?” he said. “What worked and what didn’t … With an intensive wraparound model, there can be some positive outcomes.”

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

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