Warming hut for Tahoe-Truckee homeless may be ready by November | SierraSun.com

Warming hut for Tahoe-Truckee homeless may be ready by November

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
The center would become operational when temperatures drop to dangerous levels, or if there’s a severe incoming storm.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

United for Action

Founded in 2010, United for Action is a coalition of nonprofits and faith-based organizations in North Lake Tahoe that shares the core value of helping others.

Some members include St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village, St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Tahoe City, Project MANA, North Tahoe Family Resource Center and Tahoe SAFE Alliance.

Monthly meetings are scheduled from 9:30 to 11 a.m. every fourth Thursday at rotating locations. For information, email ufatahoe@gmail.com.

----------

37: Homeless individuals counted locally

21: “Chronically homeless” (homeless for one year, or four episodes of homelessness in the past three years and having a disabling condition).

4: Veterans

0: Under 18 years old

Source: 2015 North Tahoe Truckee homeless count

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Efforts are under way to ensure those without shelter in the North Tahoe/Truckee region have a warm place to stay on frigid days next winter.

United for Action, a coalition of nonprofits and faith-based organizations along the North Shore, is working to create a warming center in Tahoe City that would become operational when temperatures drop to dangerous levels, or if there’s a severe incoming storm, said the Rev. Clare Novak, with St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Incline Village.

“The bottom line … is that no one, no one in our community should be at risk of their health or survival for lack of shelter,” she said. “That’s just obscene, and there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to provide that.”

The center is anticipated to operate out of Camp Noel Porter at 855 West Lake Blvd., Novak said, adding that the effort is in the “very early stages.”

The camp is in residential neighborhood, with most properties serving as rentals or second homes, said Jenni Liem, executive director of Camp Noel Porter.

While nearby residents have not yet been notified of the planned center, Liem said they will be, and any concerns will be addressed at that time.

EFFECTIVE, EFFICIENT, HUMANE

Camp Noel Porter shares property with United for Action member St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, but the two are separate entities, Liem said, who is also the priest in charge of St. Nicholas.

Approvals from church and camp leadership to allow such use have been secured, she said.

As for Placer County, while it’s involved in the center’s early planning stages, officials don’t anticipate the agency taking on an approval role, said Phebe Bell, program manager of health and human services for Nevada and Placer counties.

“The county supports the great work by local faith based organizations to investigate and hopefully implement a shelter like this for our community,” she said. “ … We are excited to see community members coming together to provide safe shelter for our homeless residents on nights with the most extreme weather challenges.”

Camp Noel Porter is equipped with two large meeting spaces, where those in need of shelter would be housed, along with a commercial kitchen and bathrooms, Liem said.

Details such as operational triggers and guidelines, program offerings, and staff training are being investigated, Novak said, with the hope of opening the warming center in November 2015.

“We want to have the most effective, efficient and humane system we can,” she said. “What we’re doing here is driven by need, but also by compassion. There should be no more incidents of anyone losing their life by being exposed to the elements.”

A 2013 informal internal survey among United for Action’s 13 organizational members revealed a popular request by individuals in need was for emergency housing, particularly in winter, Novak said.

No shelters exist in the greater Lake Tahoe/Truckee region, in part due to the area’s small homeless population, Bell said.

HOW MANY ARE HOMELESS?

A nationwide census of the homeless population is taken annually one night in January by the Department of the Housing and Urban Development.

Locally, a count conducted in January spanning Truckee and the lakeside of Placer County found 37 homeless people.

Each count is planned, coordinated and carried out locally, according to HUD. Employees of Nevada and Placer counties and more than 15 community volunteers facilitated this year’s Tahoe/Truckee count, Bell said.

Those counted met the HUD definition of homeless, which includes individuals who either slept outside, at someone else’s house (outside or in a garage), in an abandoned building, garage or shed, in a car or camper, in an RV (older, no permanent hookups, no permanent home), in an emergency shelter, or in transitional housing.

“It’s a surprising number given what a difficult place this is to be homeless in the winter, and it sort of re-inspired me to think about what services are realistic for us as a community to offer to this population,” Bell said.

While the warming center won’t end local homelessness, Bell said it will serve as a short-term solution.

“I think it (will) be particularly effective in giving people an option on our most challenging days that will hopefully allow people to stay alive and give them a chance to figure out other choices to make down the road that might get them a better living situation,” Bell said.

“It seems like a logical first step for us.”