GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – Nevada County Continuum of Care in connection with Bright Futures for Youth’s SAFE program will conduct a survey Tuesday, May 9, through Thursday, May 11, to determine how many children and young adults are experiencing housing instability in Nevada County, an increasing but often-overlooked issue in rural communities.
The organizations are encouraging young people 25 years and younger experiencing homelessness to participate in the Youth Point-in-Time Count survey. The results could pave the way for more funding and services to address the issue in the community.
Nevada County Continuum of Care, Community Beyond Violence and other organizations and SAFE staff and Youth Action Board members are available to meet with young people 10 a.m. to noon and 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at the San Juan Community Library Annex, 18847 Oak Tree Road on the North San Juan Ridge and 3-7 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the new SAFE Youth Drop-in Navigation Center at 200 Litton Drive in Grass Valley.
Also, a mobile effort will attempt to connect with young people in high-traffic areas in Grass Valley and Nevada City from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, May 11.
The SAFE (Stability, Access, Foundation and Empowerment) Drop-in Center on May 10 will have backpacks, gift cards, clothing and food available to those participating in the survey. SAFE staff can also help young people experiencing homelessness with access to health care services and counseling.
“It’s critical that each and every young person experiencing housing instability is counted to better understand the far-reaching issue in our community,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of Bright Futures for Youth and Board member of Nevada County Continuum of Care. “An accurate count will help detail the need for more funding and services for children and young people faced with housing instability.”
Homelessness among children and young adults, ages 12-24, is a fast-growing but often hard-to-identify issue in the rural county, where the small cities and towns are surrounded by nature compared to nearby Sacramento and other large cities in California.
Plus, the definition of “housing instability” can be a bit vague. Youth experiencing homelessness are often couch surfing with family members or friends, living in hotels, sleeping in a vehicle, or maybe even staying in a shed or trailer without electricity or plumbing – not just living on the street.
“You may not see those experiencing homelessness the way you do in downtown Sacramento, San Francisco or Los Angeles, but housing instability is a very real and an increasing issue in Nevada County,” said Aurora Packard, Program Director the SAFE program.
Indeed, SAFE is currently helping about 120 young people who are experiencing homelessness today – 10 times more than the goal when the program started in 2019. SAFE case managers meet with about 50 of those youth every week, and an average of five more learn about the program over that same period.
But how many children and young adults are experiencing homelessness in Nevada County is uncertain, according to local officials.
The Youth Point-in-Time Count will establish a more accurate figure, while also help those faced with housing instability to access much-needed services. SAFE partners with numerous government and nonprofit organizations in the community, ensuring children and young adults get the services they need.
Some youth experiencing homelessness may need clothes or a hot meal, while others could require access to health care, counseling and housing – or all of those services. The SAFE Drop-in Center also offers a place to charge smartphones, laundry services, showers, develop new skills, apply for college, financial aid, food programs or even finding a job.
“Youth experiencing homelessness are often not aware of the services available,” said Phebe Bell, Behavioral Health Director for Nevada County.
The Homeless Resource Council of the Sierra (HRCS), the lead organization in Nevada and Placer counties Continuum of Care for Homelessness, with the help of community organizations and volunteers conducts an annual Point-in-Time survey every winter. The latest survey found almost 500 adults were experiencing homelessness the night of Jan. 25, down slightly from 525 a year earlier, according to HRCS. The survey also identified 26 people under 25 years of age who were sleeping outside not with family or guardians.
But the closely watched survey uses a much narrower definition of homelessness that undercounts youth experiencing homelessness.
“The Nevada County CoC is committed to data driven decision making,” said Joe Naake, Director of Strategic Operations at Hospitality House and Chair of the Nevada County Continuum of Care. “These data are important for the CoC to ensure appropriate resources are available for vulnerable youth in Nevada County.”
The Youth Point-in-Time Count connects with children and young adults, a vulnerable group since half of adults experiencing housing instability today were homeless at some point during their childhood.
“Housing insecurity is often a cycle that is repeated from one generation to the next,” Packard said. “SAFE’s mission is to identify youth experiencing homelessness, help them get housing and other services, and open the door to new and often life-changing opportunities.”
The Youth Point-in-Time Count data may also help with grants and other funding sources for homelessness efforts in Nevada County, including for the SAFE program.
Last year, Bright Futures for Youth received a $937,000 state grant from The Center at Sierra Foundation to expand outreach and case management efforts for youth experiencing homelessness in Nevada County. The three-year grant through Elevate Youth California – a project of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation under contract with the California Department of Health Care Services – has allowed Bright Futures for Youth to open the SAFE Drop-in Center, establish more comprehensive programs, and hire several staff members.
“We are already connecting with youth in person and on social media, encouraging them to spread the word about the survey that could help them and so many others,” said Singer of Bright Futures for Youth. “We want to reach as many youth experiencing housing instability as possible and help them build a more stable foundation for their future.”
About Bright Futures for Youth
Bright Futures for Youth is a nonprofit committed to making a life-changing difference for children and young adults in Nevada County. Bright Futures for Youth has three programs: The Friendship Club, founded in 1995; NEO, founded in 2008; and SAFE, launched in 2019 to help youth experiencing homelessness. Bright Futures for Youth focuses on health and wellness, healthy relationships, goal setting, self-awareness, self-sufficiency and community connectedness. For more information, visit www.bffyouth.org or Facebook at Facebook.com/BrightFuturesforYouth.