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Nonprofits develop haven for homeless near Smartsville
Some people see a homeless person and think he or she should find a job.
But proponents of Sierra Roots, a Nevada City nonprofit organization, believe if a person spends all his time in search of food, a place to sleep, a way to clean himself or protecting his few belongings, there isn't much time for anything else.
"When you are homeless, all you can think about is where to sleep and how to get food," said Nick Bauer, who is homeless. "That is a full-time job."
Bauer is volunteering at River Highlands Ranch, a 600-acre preserve on the border of Yuba and Nevada counties near Smartsville.
Here, the seeds are being planted for what could become a safe place for homeless people, especially veterans, to sleep, grow food, hone skills and learn about healthy living while receiving guidance and resources to rebuild their lives.
The idea is called a Veterans Village, said Sierra Roots Executive Director Reinette Senum, former Nevada City mayor and councilwoman.
"The goal is to be able to create a model that can be duplicated in other places for people struggling," said Jane Rivar, who owns River Highlands Ranch, which currently houses a vineyard, an event center-like barn and Highlands Springs Healing Center, where veterans participate in equine therapy to help heal from post-traumatic stress disorder.
With the help of the local Salvation Army, Hospitality House and the ranch, Sierra Roots is working toward an eco-village pilot project in baby steps, Rivar said.
Not far from Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County, one aspect of the veteran-focused ranch is a garden that was planted and is tended by homeless people.
Food harvested from the Common Ground Homeless Garden would be used to feed those who grew it and potentially could be sold to raise funds, Senum said.
"It feels good doing something that shows results," said Tim Kenyon, 54, a former US Marine who can often be found on the streets of Grass Valley when he isn't staying at Hospitality House.
Kenyon said he has visited the garden a few times to help, once riding a bike all the way from Grass Valley.
"It's a peaceful place to settle in and get away from the highly stressful distractions and figure out what I want to do next," Kenyon said of the sprawling hillside.
The Salvation Army in Grass Valley, headed by Majors Don and Martha Sheppard, has been coordinating with Sierra Roots to screen homeless candidates and help transport them to River Highlands Ranch for gardening.
Beyond horticulture therapy, Senum said she envisions compounds with specialized care, housing and other tools to enable homeless people to get back on their feet.
"It isn't about helping homeless people, so much as it is helping people at an end," Sheppard said.
To make the vision a reality, Sierra Roots is looking to crowd-sourcing website Indiegogo.com to raise $11,980, of which more than $2,500 has already be donated.
What that money would fund is outlined by expenditure at www.indiegogo.com/commongroundveteran1.
Visit www.sierraroots.org for more information.