My name is Mark Rose, and I’m the Shelter Manager for Hospitality House. I oversee Utah’s Place, the emergency homeless shelter, and work to ensure that shelter guests are getting every opportunity to become housing ready. I am fairly new to the organization, so I’ve spent much of my first months at Hospitality House observing and learning. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are more seniors without homes than I expected, and it appears to be a growing trend. One such senior, who I’d like to introduce you to today, is a woman who I’ll refer to as Nina.

When I first started working at the shelter, Nina was easy to recognize and eager to chat, so I got to know her before any other guests. She is always so stylishly dressed that you would never assume she was a guest at the shelter, or that she had no home or close family. Nina carries herself with grace, always a smile on her face, eager to share pleasantries. She exemplifies why it would be a mistake to assume that you know what a homeless person looks like or how they ended up in their current situation.

If you sit with Nina for a moment, she will happily share tales of how she used to work for Macy’s Department Store, designing the elaborate window displays and how, during the Christmas season, she would be tasked with decorating the entire store. Nina will reference her attorney ex-husband, the nice houses they lived in, and the places they travelled to all over the world. You can hear the truth of her past life in her elegant speech and see it in her fur stoles, proper etiquette and affinity for shopping.

However, what you might not see at first, when speaking with Nina, is that she is suffering from dementia. Or that she lost connection with her family and her previous life because of her condition and her struggle with alcoholism. You might not gather that these challenges became too much for those closest to her to manage.

Although there is a tinge of weariness in the corners of her eyes, she carries on with a smile and her friendliness ensures that every guest and staff member at the shelter knows her well. What is most heartwarming is that everyone seems to care about her, keeping her under their wings. The female guests of Utah’s Place specifically look out for her, making sure she isn’t lonely, and sitting with her for hours, listening to her stories. The staff make sure she is safe and not eating something she brought back from a shopping trip, that should have been refrigerated but was left out for days.

Though Nina has lost touch with her original family, she has certainly gained a second family within the fold of Utah’s Place. Staff and guests have her back and will undoubtedly keep in touch with her as she soon moves to a 24-hour nursing facility, where she will get the care that she very much needs.

If you’d like to help Nina and those like her, working to find a safe and comfortable place to spend their golden years, please consider donating today. With rent increases, seniors with fixed incomes are finding themselves priced out of their homes and looking for help from Hospitality House.

It takes a village to serve our guests and our amazing volunteers are invaluable to the everyday operations at Hospitality House. On that note, I’d like to thank those who have generously helped out this week: Hilary Dart and Kathy Perkins helped by grocery shopping for the shelter. Bill Blount and George Dunstan provided spiritual support at Sierra Guest Home. Robin Kinnard helped cook in the shelter kitchen. A special thanks also to our partners for providing ongoing food and/or financial support: SPD Markets, BriarPatch Food Co-op, Telestream, Interfaith Food Ministry, the Bishop Store (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nevada City) and Food Bank of Nevada County. To everyone who donated our most needed items last week, thank you as well! We are incredibly grateful to all of you who give your time, energy and compassion to those who need it most.

Now down to the shelter’s wish list of the week:

  • Twin-size blankets
  • New pillows (we are unable to accept used)
  • Men’s and women’s sweatpants (all sizes) and jeans (smaller sizes only for jeans)
  • Men’s and women’s winter coats, jackets and hoodies (all sizes)
  • Bottled water

DONATION HOURS AND DROPOFF LOCATION: Donations from our needs list above and all unexpired/store-bought foods are accepted at Utah’s Place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30am – 3:30pm and Saturdays from 10am – 2pm. Our shelter is located at 1262 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. We greatly appreciate the community’s help at such times of uncertainty. In the words of Utah Phillips, “If we all stick together, we’ll get what we need.” Thank you!

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