My name is Will Buss and I’m the Program Officer for Hospitality House. My role is to oversee the case managers at Utah’s Place, our emergency homeless shelter, and to ensure that guests are connected with all available resources that might assist them on their path to permanent housing. One success story I’d like to share involves a shelter guest who I’ll refer to as Birdie.

At 58 years old, Birdie has been in and out of the shelter for close to five years. Addiction is the primary cause for her experience of chronic homelessness. She has attempted several times to get clean and sober, but the struggle is ongoing, and as much as she wants a better life, she’s prone to frequent relapse. Over those five years Birdie would show up at the shelter, sober up, show motivation toward getting her life back on track, and begin working through the steps necessary to get mentally and physically healthy. Then she would relapse and leave, only to show up again a month or so later.

This type of behavior is common for folks struggling with addiction, and while others may give up on a person, the staff at Hospitality House know that the most effective way to help such guests is to maintain a welcoming environment, without judgement, and to give second, third or fourth chances as well as the opportunity for treatment. Birdie is a prime example of how this method works. After each relapse, she became more and more driven to get her life back on track. Holding her accountable for her decisions, the shelter staff helped her to realize that she was the only one who could truly get herself out of addiction.

After several failed attempts at sobriety, during her most recent effort a switch seemed to flip in Birdie’s brain. She fully embraced the case management plan created to get her back into housing and she has remained clean for over a year! The consistent support of shelter staff, along with her growing self-confidence, resulted in Birdie doing what it took to tip her life in the right direction. Three weeks ago, she moved into Sierra Guest Home, Hospitality House’s transitional and senior housing complex, with a goal of reacquainting her with independent living, and in one week’s time she will be moving into her very own apartment. For the first time in years, Birdie will be healthy, sober and housed. After five years of dedication to this goal, the staff at the shelter are celebrating right alongside Birdie, cheering her on every step of the way.

If you’d like to help Birdie, and those like her who are working their way back to permanent housing, please consider donating during our May Match Challenge! Donations made through May 31, will be matched dollar for dollar up to $30,000. That means your gift of $30 becomes $60, and gives someone like Birdie safe shelter, warm meals, clothing, hot showers and customized case management support.

It takes a village to serve the homeless men, women and children in our community and we are grateful for Hospitality House’s amazing volunteers who were invaluable 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 cooked in the kitchen with our culinary specialist; and the United Universalist Community of the Mountains and the Ramblers cooked up delicious meals for the entire shelter with their teams. 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 sheet sets
  • 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 t-shirts (all sizes)
  • New men’s and women’s underwear (we are only able to accept NEW – 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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