Pauli Halstead: Just give me some truth |

Pauli Halstead: Just give me some truth

I have to say I was prepared to shoot some holes in Dr. Marbut’s presentation last Thursday, but came away agreeing with everything he said.

Marbut illuminated the problems homelessness creates in our community and also pointed out the failure of Nevada County in making any improvement in homelessness over the last decade.

What it all boils down to is apathy on the part of our elected officials and the inability of coordinating social services and the nonprofits with one unified master plan.

What we do know is that most of our homeless are from here (Nevada County). They did not come from somewhere else to take advantage of our communities.

Most are mentally ill, poverty stricken, or addicted, and unable to function well. They need help. We have a 1 percent housing vacancy in Nevada County so the housing first model will not work here.

We do not have a 24/7 community shelter. Hospitality House is not a permanent shelter. Residents of that program are turned out at 7 a.m. each day and are not taken back in until 4 p.m., much to the consternation of local businesses in the Brunswick Basin. The overnight shelter model has not solved our homeless problem.

We need the coordinated participation of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and the city councils of Nevada City and Grass Valley to address the following issues:

Immediately we need a cold weather shelter located in Nevada City so we don’t have to find and relocate folks over to the Salvation Army in Grass Valley in the middle of a storm. Mark Prestwich has indicated his willingness to open the Veteran’s Hall in Nevada City. Veteran’s buildings are the State of California’s designated place for emergency shelters.

People can die of hypothermia, even at 50 degrees, if they are wet.

We also need a 24/7 community center, located in Nevada City or Grass Valley.

The community center would be the anchor location where all services and feeding programs would take place. Currently Nevada City folks are able to get food at several locations six days a week because of the generosity of Divine Spark, Sierra Roots, the First Baptist Church and Trinity Church.

The community center would have showers and laundry facilities, job training, computers and a library. The benefit of having a community center is it would engage people during the day and support them in recovery. We have to accept that the community center needs to be located in city limits.

We just have to get over the NIMBYism. Would you rather have the community center or would you rather have people hanging out all over town with nothing to do?

We need our city councils to institute zoning flexibility. According to California Senate Bill SB2, Light Industrial is the designated zoning for shelters. There is very little LI in either Nevada City or Grass Valley. According to SB2, cities are mandated to adjust some other types of zoning to accommodate shelters.

Alcoholism and drug abuse are rampant among the homeless. It takes weeks to get into detox if a person wants help, or they have to go to Marysville for a methadone program. This does not work well if you are an addict. We need a sustained drug and alcohol detox facility and treatment program that our local population can access on a daily basis.

We need to eliminate the no-camping ordinance and provide safe and secure camping areas in both Nevada City and Grass Valley. This could be done quickly at minimal cost.

The no-camping ordinance is not adequately enforced. One suggestion, at the forum, was to begin using the fairgrounds which are underutilized most of the year. We are all in agreement that the fire hazard is real and unsanitary camps are a nuisance. It’s up to our elected officials to come up with a solution before a disastrous fire happens.

According to an article published in the Washington Post on Aug. 13, the federal government has determined it is unconstitutional to ban the homeless from sleeping outside. “The legal issue has to do with the difference between criminalizing conduct, and criminalizing a person’s status, if that status cannot be helped.”

Our action plan, now, is to create a task force this week which would include Nevada County supervisors, the cities of Nevada City and Grass Valley, nonprofits working with the homeless, service organizations, and representatives from the homeless community.

Hopefully, the task force would see the wisdom in hiring a consultant such as Dr. Marbut to guide us.

Pauli Halstead is a chef for Divine Spark and lives in Nevada City.

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