This history was written in 2005 by Rev. Don Lee, Board President
A caring community creates a winter shelter
As with all wonderful projects, Hospitality House began as an idea shared by a small group of people. In the wet, cold winter of 2004, a group of concerned residents gathered to discuss their dream of helping the many homeless people in western Nevada County by providing shelter and food during the winter months. Cindy Maple, Margaret Little, Rev. Don Lee, Janice O’Brien, Karen Terpening, Utah Phillips, and Joanna Robinson began to explore the possibilities, hoping to open a shelter that winter.
They quickly realized, however, that a lot of preparation was needed to gather support and learn about shelter operation.
As the winter wore on, Jim Ward, Doug Lautzenhiser, Mary O’Brien, Mark Schlak, Theresa Lyon, Sue Gill, and Frank Desplancke joined the team. Everyone started in on the detailed work that would create Hospitality House. The group enjoyed rollicking, creative, intensely focused meetings that led that summer to the official formation of Foothill House of Hospitality — “Hospitality House” — as a non-profit organization.
But the question remained: Where to locate the shelter?
Following the guidance of successful neighboring community shelters (especially Placer County’s Gathering Inn and the Chico Community Shelter Project), Hospitality House decided to operate as a nomadic shelter, moving nightly between different faith communities.
Guests would meet at a Welcome Center, then travel by bus to the faith community’s facility at night, and return to the Welcome Center in the morning. In addition, faith communities and other volunteers would provide meals and fellowship for guests.
Having settled on this model, Hospitality House organizers began raising money, recruiting volunteers, and coordinating with participating faith communities.
To determine the number of locals in need, the dedicated team organized a one-day count on June 30, 2005, which sent dozens of volunteers out to scour the county, spreading word of the planned shelter and surveying the needs of the homeless.
The effort identified 238 people without a roof of their own — including 42 children.
This count, which helped significantly to build awareness of homelessness in western Nevada County, energized the team’s effort to open a winter shelter as soon as possible.
On Nov. 5, 2005, Hospitality House opened its doors to homeless residents. During those first few weeks the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains graciously served as the daily welcome center.
The interfaith effort, which brought representatives from many faith communities together in pursuit of a common goal, was a delight to experience!
On Dec. 11, 2005, Hospitality House moved into its new Welcome Center at 438B Colfax Avenue in Grass Valley. Volunteers and guests created a homey atmosphere, and showers and laundry facilities became available to guests.
Hospitality House now offers overnight accommodation nearly every night as the number of participating faith communities continues to grow.
Many volunteers contribute countless hours — their help makes Hospitality House possible.
Hospitality House is financially supported by donations, faith community support, and grants. The board of directors, staff and volunteers look forward to the months ahead as Hospitality House continues to grow and thrive.