Michael Taylor: Nevada County can lead on solutions for our homeless community | TheUnion.com

Michael Taylor: Nevada County can lead on solutions for our homeless community

Other Voices
Michael Taylor

Homelessness is a major issue. In my last op-ed, I touched on my personal experiences with homelessness as well as what I’ve witnessed firsthand of others (http://bit.ly/HomelessnessNC).

I’m proud of the work local nonprofits and agencies in our community are doing to help with the situation. I can’t think of a better way to say “thank you” than to write this follow-up article, which will highlight the organizations that are already tackling the issue of homelessness in Nevada County. I want to send my utmost gratitude to all the volunteers, nonprofits and social service providers who’ve helped support the homeless population in our community during the holidays and throughout the year.

Considering our size, Nevada County has an incredibly high volume of activists and nonprofits working to help people experiencing homelessness. Community awareness seems to be at an all-time high, which makes this the perfect time to figure out how we can streamline and amplify the already great work happening in our area. In addition to providing basic emergency shelter services to people experiencing homelessness, local nonprofits are going above and beyond. They offer job trainings, host community meals and provide transitional services that reintegrate people who’ve experienced homelessness back into the community.

Sierra Roots manages some fantastic projects. They host lunches twice a week with a goal of not only feeding people experiencing homelessness, but also of creating community. They’ve also formed an agreement with Nevada City that allows the Seaman’s Lodge, in Pioneer Park, and the Veteran’s Hall, on North Pine Street, to act as emergency shelters during nights of extremely cold weather. Additionally, they have a Micro-Village Project in the works.

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Community awareness seems to be at an all-time high, which makes this the perfect time to figure out how we can streamline and amplify the already great work happening in our area.

Hospitality House has partnered with Nevada County to bring a similar project to life. Brunswick Commons, which will feature 40 housing units and a resource center, has already been approved and is scheduled to break ground in 2020. Hospitality House also offers job trainings and manages a Rapid Rehousing Program that helps people experiencing homelessness secure permanent housing. In an article earlier this year, Nancy Baglietto, the executive director of Hospitality House, said, “If we’re going to ameliorate homelessness, we’ve got to do it through housing.” (http://bit.ly/NancyBaglietto). Quite frankly, I can’t agree more.

Pauli Halstead, former Sierra Roots Board Member and longtime advocate of “Housing First” policies, recently invited me to a local Housing Committee meeting, which I plan to attend in January. Aurora Packard, the chair of the committee, is the Youth Empowerment Coordinator for The Friendship Club, where she works on the SAFE (Stability. Access. Foundation. Empowerment) program. If you haven’t heard of SAFE, the program provides academic, social and emotional support as well as life skills training to high school seniors experiencing homelessness as they transition into adulthood.

These projects, committees, community members and social service providers are just the tip of the iceberg. The Nevada County Interfaith Food Ministry consistently feeds the hungry. Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital processes people experiencing homelessness with humility. Both the Grass Valley and Nevada City Police Departments are quick and kind in their responses to calls about homelessness. The list goes on and on. I think it’s important that we recognize the great work the people and organizations mentioned above are doing, while also trying to figure out how we can help them do what they do better, and faster.

While there are diverse views on how to best deal with the issue of homelessness, one thing is clear; the County doesn’t have the funds or the staff to deal with the problem on their own. While there are state allocated funds that the County can, and does, apply for, they also need partners to manage these funds and see projects to fruition.

“Housing First” is a popular standpoint, but high building costs, strict building codes, access (or the lack thereof) to sewer systems and steep grades on available land are just some of the major roadblocks preventing Nevada County from reaching its affordable housing goals.

As a licensed general building contractor with 40 years of experience in most facets of construction, I have a deep understanding of these physical and economic roadblocks. I strongly support the local social service providers that are already offering amazing services here in the foothills and want to work with them to figure out how we can accelerate them towards their goals.

If you also want to be a part of the solution, let’s talk. Please reach out to me directly by email at mtaylor4district1@gmail.com.

Michael Taylor is a candidate for the District 1 seat on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

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