NEVADA CITY, Calif. March 13, 2018 – Torrential rains today, snow later in the week, but yet there is no warming shelter slated to be opened – again.

Early this morning Pauli Halstead sent an email to Sierra Roots inquiring about the opening of the warming shelter. Janice O’Brien, the co-founder of Sierra Roots, responded: “Sierra Roots will not open the shelter this week. I’m sorry we’re the only ones doing this, but there are times when we cannot open because we as an organization have other things that we have scheduled to do.  We can only do what we can do sometimes.”

The email, forwarded by Halstead to YubaNet, continues: “The MOU is an agreement between Sierra Roots and the City of Nevada City.  That means when we cannot do it, we cannot do it.  Everyone out there is on their own, which they were before Sierra Roots opened a shelter 7 years ago. 

Neither Danita nor Keith nor I will be available to do anything with a Cold Weather Shelter this week.  Our sleeping bags and mats are not for use.  Sierra Roots is planning and doing a two-day retreat to restructure the organization and prepare for the next steps in growth to plan and build the Supportive Community Village for the chronically homeless. This is a critical time and important that everyone from Sierra Roots attend.

Sierra Roots, who indeed has a Memorandum of Understanding with Nevada City, is once again unable to fulfill their part of the contract. The all-volunteer organization appears not to have the capacity to consistently serve the needs of the transient population. Last month, no warming shelter was open on a heavy snow day – due to logistical issues put forth by Sierra Roots.

Volunteer burnout is an all too common issue for small non-profits and by no means should blame be placed on the individuals donating their time and money. But, where will the transient population spend the night and the following nights?

Now what?

At publication time, Nevada County was once again attempting to secure access to the bedding material stored by Sierra Roots, again without success at this time.

According to an email by Michael Haggerty, Nevada County Health and Human Services Director, “The County is prepared to offer a small number of volunteers, a behavioral health therapist and public health nurse, and some limited, temporary financial assistance. The County will contribute these services to Sierra Roots to operate the warming center; but would consider assisting alternative organizations in lieu of Sierra Roots.”

Haggerty’s email goes on: “The County continues to partially fund overflow beds at Hospitality House, in partnership with the City of Grass Valley. Realistically, absent the leadership of Sierra Roots, I don’t see a path to safely operate a warming center this week.”

Three weeks ago, this was the exact same situation. Sierra Roots leadership appears unwilling to relinquish the resources needed  to operate a warming shelter yet cannot muster the resources/volunteers to run it themselves. HHSA appears unwilling to step in and Nevada City is not responding to requests for comment.

Nevada County has reached out to the Red Cross chapter and we are awaiting an update on that effort.