The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County | TheUnion.com
YOUR AD HERE »

The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County

Tom Durkin
Staff Writer

Almost 25% of Nevada County’s population is over 65 and at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

That’s 25,000 people. There are thousands more with compromised health and/or unsafe living conditions who are also at risk.

As for people with compromised health, unsanitary living conditions and/or who are over 65, “That’s pretty much most of the homeless population,” said Brendan Phillips, Nevada County’s housing resource manager.

To help 15,000 of the state’s growing population of more than 150,000 homeless people, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has introduced Project Roomkey.

According to an April 3 press release from the governor’s press office, Project Roomkey “… means state and local governments will receive up to 75 percent cost-share reimbursement from FEMA for hotel and motel rooms, including wraparound supports such as meals, security, and custodial services. Essential behavioral health and health care services will also be provided ….”

Homeless people are a “critically vulnerable” cohort who are both at risk for catching COVID-19 and for spreading it, Phillips said.

Most government and medical authorities agree it’s in everybody’s interest to give homeless people a safe place to shelter during the pandemic emergency.

Using funds from pre-existing programs and from Newsom’s Project Roomkey initiative, Phillips said, “We’ve placed over 60 people since March 18 in local (motels).”

Administered by the county, Project Roomkey is supplementing the already established efforts of local nonprofits and the multi-agency HOME Team to place the most vulnerable homeless and potentially homeless people in motels on an emergency or transitional basis, Phillips said.

The HOME (Homeless Outreach and Medical Engagement) Team “consists of eight team members: four outreach workers, two housing navigators, one peer supporter, and one registered nurse,” according to Nevada County’s website.

Most agencies supporting homeless people were already using motels to house clients on a temporary basis. Funds from Project Roomkey and private donations have expanded their ability to protect at-risk people during the pandemic.

“We serve everybody. We provide food. We provide shelter,” said Paul Cogley, executive director of Sierra Roots, a nonprofit that serves Nevada County’s most down-and-out individuals.

Best known for providing a low-barrier warming shelter during life-threatening winter weather, Sierra Roots has placed 21 people in motels since the March 19 shutdown order, Cogley said.

Phillips stressed motels are mostly used as a short-term solution while housing navigators work to find more suitable transitional or permanent housing, which usually happens fairly quickly.

“We’ve never had more than 25 (in motels) at once,” he added.

“It’s really expensive,” explained Stephanie Fisher, executive director of Community Beyond Violence. Rooms cost more than $100 per night, she said.

SHELTER IN PLACE

Hospitality House, which runs Utah’s Place homeless shelter, has placed some of its most at-risk shelter clients in motels for the duration of the pandemic emergency. The idea is to improve social distancing in the shelter — and if there is a COVID-19 outbreak, fewer people will be exposed.

“Between March 16 when we enacted our emergency pandemic plans and May 31, we have housed 23 people. We anticipate housing more people this week and next as well,” Joe Naake said in a June 6 email.

Naake is the outreach manager for Hospitality House and a member of the HOME Team.

At great expense of money, time and effort, a small army of staff and volunteers from multiple nonprofits and county agencies are mobilized to deliver three meals a day and a panoply of supportive services to people at Utah’s Place and in the motels, Naake said.

The guests have a behavior contract that includes a requirement to shelter in place.

“Some people are having a hard time with that. That’s our biggest concern,” said Mike Dent, director of Housing and Child Support Services for Nevada County.

“Some guests are struggling with the shelter-in-place order,” confirmed Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House. “Our staff has been there for them, offering peer support, mental health counseling, and entertainment, such as arts and crafts and even movie nights, to help with this ongoing stay-in-place order.”

Even though the community is beginning to reopen, the shelter-in-place rule is still in effect for high risk individuals in the motels and Utah’s Place.

“I can’t praise the motels enough,” Phillips said. “They trust us. We trust them. They are looking out for our folks.”

WHERE TO HOUSE

Fisher reported nine adults and three children were placed in motels in February and March for 16 nights. In April and May 15 adults and four children we sheltered for 33 nights total, she said.

Dent noted Project Roomkey was a financial lifeline for the motels. “They suffered greatly” when the statewide shutdown was ordered.

“Definitely, of course,” the income from the county is good, said Braulio Lee, manager of the Coach N’ Four Motel in Grass Valley. He said he was hosting four homeless guests as of last Friday.

Lee went on to say, “It helps everybody who’s outdoors who needs to be indoors. We want to keep them safe.”

As a supplement to Project Roomkey, the state is deploying at least 1,305 trailers to house more homeless people.

“I made a request for trailers,” Phillips said. “They said no. They gave us money to buy trailers instead.”

That money is being channeled through FREED, he said. FREED is a nonprofit that assists disabled and elderly people with independent living.

“We’ve been working closely with FREED,” Ashley Quadros, development director for Hospitality House, wrote in an email Monday. A trailer is in storage, waiting to be located in a trailer park. “We expect our homeless resident to be housed likely within the week.”

Dent acknowledged the fact that hundreds of people in the county are living illegally in trailers because they can’t afford the expensive space rentals and fees charged by trailer parks. He said he’s concerned elderly, low-income citizens are being priced out of legal trailer parks. Nevertheless, the county will only place trailers for homeless citizens in authorized parks.

Phillips offered a glimmer of hope for an increase in affordable housing. He cautioned he only has anecdotal evidence, but, “I feel like there might be Airbnbs coming online as ADUs.”

Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as granny flats, have been hotly debated in recent years as a means of addressing the affordable housing drought.

Phillips explained that since Airbnbs are already approved for habitation, the conversion to ADUs would be relatively painless. A year-long lease guaranteed by a nonprofit could be more attractive than the increasingly risky, regulated and seasonal Airbnb market.

Lack of affordable housing is a major cause of homelessness.

It’s not over yet, but Phillips concluded on an upbeat note: “I feel really good about the work we’ve done. We helped so many people in the last three months.”

MORE IN THIS SERIES

Regional housing trust fund in the works for Nevada County

Nevada County looks to emphasize smaller units

No fears of housing density among planning officials

COVID-19 protocols strain Nevada County homeless shelter’s budget

Tenants, landlords arrange payment options during COVID-19 eviction ban

Patchwork of tenant protections intact for now

The high cost of homelessness in Nevada County

Nevada City collaborates with county and nonprofits to move campers off Sugarloaf Mountain

‘I may have now but I might not tomorrow’: No uptick in Nevada County homelessness amid COVID-19, but future concerns linger

Nevada County housing market sees increased demand, limited inventory

Nevada County graduates consider options in wake of COVID-19

Nevada County students receive more than $800,000 in scholarships

Graduating seniors in Nevada county weigh financial, academic concerns for college

Career education program adapts to meet needs of students

‘I just want to play’: Players, coaches, ADs and officials eye safe, speedy return of high school sports

‘Should I jump into a career?’ Many questions remain for students, teachers and administrators as the future draws nearer

Nevada County middle schoolers, high school underclassmen unsure what to expect next year

Support systems for Nevada County teens go virtual during pandemic

Sierra College summer enrollment not slowing

‘The best they could’: Nevada County Superintendent of Schools reflects on the school year, ponders what’s to come this fall

‘I can’t see the bottom now’: Administrators consider where and whether to make layoffs amid revenue shortage

‘These kids want to ball’: Youth sports organizations grapple with tough decisions regarding COVID-19 safety

Hamstrung: Nevada County summer sports scene hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County theaters go dark for the year

Movie theaters struggle to cover rent, utilities in an industry that typically operates with narrow profit margin

‘Planning for all of it’: Nevada City Film Festival moves online for this year’s event

Nevada County’s music festivals look to virtual events to build community, recoup finances

For Nevada County musicians, the show goes online

Nevada County artists adapt, host online galleries, concerts and workshops

Street fair cancellations in Nevada City, Grass Valley a huge economic hit

‘We are the recovery; we are essential’: Nevada County Arts Council survey reveals artists, art organizations are struggling

Who’s zooming whom? Creativity among Nevada County artists in the pandemic era

Nevada County Arts Council receives $112K Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education grant for new project

Nevada County nonprofit funding in jeopardy

Nonprofits struggle to serve clients during pandemic shutdown

Nevada County animal rescue groups see surge in fosters, adoptions

Nevada County’s thrift stores move ahead with reopening

Possible postponement, cancellation of Nevada County Fair would negatively impact several Nevada County nonprofits

Local nonprofits feeling the effect of canceled, postponed fundraising events due to COVID-19

Feeding Nevada County: Effort to help those hungry bolstered by partnerships between nonprofits (VIDEO)

Nevada County youth organizations adjust to public health requirements

Volunteer work faces changes at Nevada County nonprofits amid restrictions

‘Do you have reserves?’ Still much uncertainty over how nonprofits will fare in coming months, years

Government business continues in isolation during COVID-19 pandemic

Nevada County, cities collaborate to reopen safely

Wildfire prep in Nevada County continues virtually during pandemic

‘This is why we signed up’: Librarian, homeless shelter manager continue working during pandemic

Financial aid offers much-needed relief in western Nevada County for those who can get it

Grass Valley trims staff in response to COVID-19 shutdown

Nevada County: Staffing, service reductions not yet needed

Nevada County property tax on par despite pandemic

Nevada County health workers say they currently have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment

Hospice of the Foothills continues providing end-of-life care during COVID-19 crisis

Senior care facilities on lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

Residents of Nevada County senior living communities staying connected

‘Continue to plan and prepare’: Hospital analyzes finances, anticipates federal funding to ensure financial stability

Nurses in Nevada County and the region talk about why they love their jobs

Nevada County not planning to release more detailed COVID-19 case data

Officials: Testing is key in calls to reopen in Nevada County, across California

Nevada County doctors change approach to providing care due to COVID-19

The trifecta: Public health experts recommend testing, contact tracing and supported isolation to phase into a reopened world

Investigating the impact: Lack of revenue, uncertain return date causes concern for arts and entertainment venues

Impacts of Idaho-Maryland mine to be revealed soon

Nevada County artists discuss how COVID-19 shutdown has affected them

‘The arts are essential’: Center for the Arts launches emergency relief fund

Real estate sales strong in Nevada County despite challenges

No slowdown seen in Nevada County construction industry despite COVID-19 lockdown

Nevada County government, home improvement and real estate representatives talk business during COVID-19

‘I’d like to place an order’: In light of COVID-19, the demand for home delivery services in Nevada County is at an all-time high

Grass Valley, Nevada City first to feel COVID-19 economic hit

See you soon? Small business owners struggle, but are hopeful for a brighter tomorrow in Nevada County

Nevada County businesses struggle navigating economic relief

Nevada County health care providers pivot on financial tight rope

‘A sudden and dramatic downturn’: Nevada County economy will be hurt for longtime following coronavirus slowdown, expert says

‘A recession, let alone a depression’: Western Nevada County businesses apply for federal loans, but most have yet to receive money

Nevada County businesses, governments, nonprofits navigate uncertain times, worry what’s ahead

RELATED RESOURCES

http://www.TheUnion.com/coronavirus

http://www.MyNevadaCounty.com/coronavirus

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

Tom Durkin is a staff writer with The Union.


Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

For tax deductible donations, click here.
 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User