Our View: Nevada County takes action on homelessness | TheUnion.com

Our View: Nevada County takes action on homelessness

The Union Editorial Board

In the case of homelessness, Nevada County has been watching a movie with a poor script for years.

We’ve lurched from one plot point to the next with little reason. We’ve winced as the players strike off in different directions with little to no interaction with each other.

And, when the action has slowed to a crawl, we’ve raised our hands and implored the actors: “Do something!”

Finally it looks like they are.

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took the latest step in bringing a homeless day center and affordable housing project to our community. Supervisors already approved the purchase of land on Old Tunnel Road for these projects. On Tuesday they gave the green light to applying for millions of dollars in grants to help fund them.

On Thursday the annual homeless point-in-time count occurred. This provides yearly data that gives our elected leaders insight on whether their actions impact homelessness.

Our leaders are doing something. The question is: Does the storyline now make sense, and will everyone like the ending?

There’s plenty about this Nevada County should like. Supervisors set a goal and worked toward achieving it. We’re now seeing results, not studies or meetings that drone on forever.

“Housing First” is a model county leaders have embraced. They’ve made this choice after touring facilities in other communities, learning what works and what they should avoid.

No one is going to approve of every aspect of these projects. Some folks have concerns about the potential effects of evacuation in case of fire. There’s also, as with any project, the issue of funding.

Nevada County should have spent at least 50 percent of grant money received last year for Odyssey House — a facility for the mentally ill — before asking for $3 million for the day center. That required it to seek a waiver that enables it to ask for the money.

It’s also seeking $1.5 million for the affordable housing part of the project. An additional $500,000 in funds is guaranteed, officials have said.

This money won’t pay for everything, though the county already has its funding plan. The Regional Housing Authority, and a loan secured by Hospitality House — a county partner in the project — will help bridge the financial gap.

Of course, these projects will require funds each year for staff and upkeep. We should know what the dollar amount will be for ongoing costs now and in the future.

That’s an important question — Do we even know what the grand total will be or what future needs our county must address?

Homelessness affects not only adults, but also children and teens. How can we ensure some of the most vulnerable among the homeless don’t fall through the cracks?

The state would be wise to grant our community the money to start construction. Another huge help would be a redesign of state laws overseeing the state’s approach to homelessness.

The Legislature never has properly funded services for those with mental illness. Make no mistake: Many homeless folks suffer from mental illness. That’s one reason Nevada County intends to have 12 of its 40 units on Old Tunnel Road house people with severe mental health issues.

The League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties should lobby legislators on this issue. Fix the laws, provide the funding and let’s do something about moving this story forward.

This community has the initiative to make this a great success story. It’s worth a watch, and maybe — if you’ve got the inclination — you should take part in helping write this script.

Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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