A Home to Come Home To

It seems like a simple thing, a simple need - a place to come home to where we can let our hair down, take our shoes off, put our feet up, rest, and eat a good meal. Everyone should have a "home to come home to".  After a long day of meetings, shopping or traveling, nothing appeals more than coming home to rest. A "home to come home to"is what our unsheltered friends need. Yet, they have no place they can call home - no place to rest safely. No place to be warm and dry out of the weather. As the generous community we are in Nevada City and Grass Valley, can we come together to provide a place like this for each of our citizens? What will it take? 
Right now we have Hospitality House as an overnight emergency shelter which is doing a tremendous job of finding housing for so many unhoused individuals. It is one solution for many people. But if you have animals, you can't come in. If you've had something to drink during the day, you can't come in. If you have severe anxiety or post traumatic syndrome, you won't want to stay there with so many people all around you. It's not the place for many of our chronically houseless individuals who have taken care of themselves for months and years very resourcefully.

Divine Spark has rented a day center called the Streicher House that is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This is a quiet and serene place for houseless individuals to spend the day, eat a good meal, shower, get some clean clothes or connect with Social Service providers. But there is no home to go home to after 4:00 p.m..

The County is providing money to buy land to possibly build an apartment building for low income people in Grass Valley very soon - maybe it will be done in 2017- 2018? They also have secured money and contractors to renovate the Bost House in Nevada City as a rehab and mental health facility for Veterans and homeless individuals. Bost House is scheduled to be open by the middle of 2017. 

The consciousness of the community has been raised as to the very difficult situation for a growing number of people in our community who call this area their home, but don't have the money or resources to rent an apartment or buy a home here. Individuals, county and city officials are addressing the homelessness situation as fast as they can and all are doing their best. Yet we still have no immediate place for those unsheltered and very dangerously fragile to live out of the cold and the wet this winter.  

Sierra Roots appreciates and acknowledges all the efforts of the cities and county to address this growing crisis. However, all of it is in the future. Some still want to do more research about the homeless. Meetings abound. Continuum of Care continues to work ceaselessly to count and get numbers of homeless persons and rank them in the needs categories. Much is being done and people are still not housed or safe.  

Those who suffer any mental instability due to being unsheltered and marginalized from the main stream community, are in desperate need of privacy, a quiet place to go home to, as well as a caring community that will help them navigate the many streams of services the agencies provide. Each individual needs individual love and assistance. Each individual needs a serious friend who will commit  to helping them and seeing it through with them, whether for days, weeks, months or years - someone who will not give up on them. That's why Sierra Roots is training Advocates to do that for individuals. We continue moving towards setting up a small home village as a supportive community for these very needy and fragile people who are chronically homeless.

Sierra Roots has studied this situation and been imbedded with the chronically homeless people of our community for the last five years. We have done the research and know what can and does work for these individuals who are so needy of community and housing. We are ready to step in and do this NOW for our community. We just need a good piece of land on which to begin to set up our village. Help us get the finances we need to purchase a piece of land, since neither the county nor the cities are ready to lease us a piece of land to do this. We can create a community and we can do this with the homeless community to create a beautiful, self-sustaining and self-managed  community of health, safety, security and beauty for all residents.

Let us know what you can contribute to help us build this community for our people NOW, not later. Call Janice at 265-5403 or Sierra Roots at 264-5113.  


It's a long story of five days attending to one of our well known homeless fellows who has been living in the woods of Pioneer Park for the last several years. Swampy, as he is known to his street friends and Sierra Roots, has a real name which is Phillip Joel Courture. I started to call him Phil, but when I met his family, I found out they have always called him Joe. He is the youngest of three. He has one son, Brendan, who is a straight A student at his university. Joe is very proud of all of them and feels close to them but that he is a burden to them because he has MS and can't take care of himself.  

Though Joe gets a good bit of money for disability, he uses it up pretty quickly each month, as he has a very generous heart and ends up helping every other homeless person he can, buying them food, drink and cigarettes. He also uses a lot of marijuana for the pain of his MS.  

Several weeks ago, Swampy (Joe) showed up at Streicher House in desperate need and shame. His MS had advanced to such a degree that he was falling a lot, and then lost all control of his bowels and kidneys. I was told this was the final stage of MS which is considered a chronic condition. He was also being mugged by other people in the park who wanted to steal his money.  He really needed a place to stay that would be safe and where he would be assisted with his medicines and money.

I took Joe to the hospital though I hesitated taking him to the ER because of how he has been dismissed there when he has gone before by himself. I took him to the Urgent Care Clinic at Western Sierra Medical but there were no doctors there, and the Physician's Assistant didn't know what to do for him. They sent us to the ER anyway.

I really thought someone there would be able to help us find a Skilled Nursing Facility where Joe could stay. I learned that a person would need to stay for three midnights in the hospital before a doctor could request a nursing facility to take him in.  And because his MS was not considered acute but chronic, no doctor was willing to have him stay for three nights. He was going to be released that day. I said it would be an unsafe release, and two of the social workers at the hospital helped me get the doctors to keep him another night. With a warm bed to sleep in and some regular meals, Joe began feeling better and did regain control over his bowels. His dear sister, Terry, who lives in San Jose, has been trying to get him into a care facility for several years. I called her and told her what we were trying to do, and she immediately provided first month financing to put him in West View in Auburn, which is a large facility with great ratings. Because this was the Columbus Day weekend, and we needed to put him in a motel for a night while waiting to get into West View. Motels were full too. Finally we found one that was very good to Joe and the next morning we were able to take him to a safe place.

Joe is happy there. He calls it his home, and he has made many friends there already. He says sometimes he misses his old friends and the trees and the stars and moon that he slept under for so many nights. But as the rain pours down and it gets colder, he is very happy to be inside and being taken care of. I go to visit Joe as often as I can and take him out to the bank to get some money and to the store for cigarettes, sodas and candy bars. He would really like a doctor to get him a script for marijuana and to get some "good stuff". That will be the next thing I'll try to do for Joe. We are all so relieved he is in a safe and healthy place now. 

~Janice O'Brien

On October 13, a group of Nevada City, Grass Valley and County officials made a trip to COTS, "Community of the Shelterless", in Petaluma to hear Mike Johnson, C EO speak about how the program works. Mike was homeless for eight years, which gives him an inside perspective on what is involved in moving out of homelessness.
COTS is probably the most successful "training" in the country for helping people who have become homeless to re-establish themselves in society again. COTS is not just about "housing first". It is a comprehensive and intensive program, which includes addiction rehabilitation, job skills, money management, and so much more. By the time people graduate, which takes about three to six months, they can compete in the regular housing and job market again. COTS has a 96% success rate for those who have graduated.
It was obvious, from those attending the tour, that they came away with a much better understanding that Nevada County needs a program similar to COTS if the homeless crisis is going to improve. It was also clear that the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City, County Supervisors, Behavioral Health, Law Enforcement, and the non-profits must pull together to solve the problem. Working independently is no longer an option because the need is so great. Every day in Nevada County people become homeless for one reason or another. They are not coming from somewhere else, but due to lack of jobs and affordable housing, the homeless population is burgeoning each year.
You can watch the Youtube video made by Greg Zaller at this URL:

Congratulations to Janice and Jim O'Brien's family. Their grand daughter Guinevere, with help from daddy Tristan Ferguson, gave birth on November 7th, 2016.

Guinevere writes: "Killian James Shanley Ferguson is here! He is so precious. We are very much in love with him. He's 7lbs 1oz and 19.5 inches and very healthy. Here comes a new chapter in both of our lives! "


Next Monthly Volunteer Meeting  Thursday,  
December 8th , 2016 at 1 PM
First Methodist Church ~ 433 Broad Street, Nevada City

Our monthly meetings are intended for those who are just becoming acquainted with Sierra Roots and want to learn more about the various volunteer opportunities and for those already involved to keep you all up to date, informed and involved in discussion and planning.

Not everyone  is aware of the many ways Sierra Roots engages and builds community with our homeless friends while we continue to look for land for our Village.  We'll talk about some of the lesser known volunteer opportunities at this meeting also.

Special Request from all current volunteers:   In  order to update our records, we need current mailing addresses.   This can be provided at the meeting, or, if you cannot attend, please forward the information to Danita Sorenson , Volunteer Coordinator at:   rhandd@sbcglobal.net.

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