One of our most important programs, the weekly hot lunches, are essential to our goal of building community with our homeless participants.

Through service with the hungry and homeless, we build relationships and a sense of community twice a week, all year round, rain or shine. Every Thursday we serve a hot nutritious meal provided by our volunteers. The food we serve is homemade, with a meat dish, vegetarian protein, salad, vegetable, dessert and milk. Portable snacks are provided through the Food Bank of Nevada County.

Sierra Roots meals are served November through May at the First Community Church in Nevada City and June through October at Pioneer Park picnic area. We also provide basic toiletries, new socks every week, and clothing every other week.

Join the Sierra Roots “Lunch Bunch” volunteers for a rewarding time. New volunteers are always welcome, and always appreciated.


The Sierra Roots Weather Shelter Collaboration is at work to offer a welcoming place when brutal weather threatens the lives and safety of homeless residents in our community. The collaboration is comprised of Sierra Roots, Nevada County and Nevada City.


As always, this year the shelter will continue to operate according to the principles developed by Sierra Roots founder Janice O’Brien. The shelter has been widely lauded for its participatory relationships between shelter volunteers and chronically homeless participants.


At a time not so long ago, chronically homeless people in the Nevada City environs had nowhere to go when the weather turned bitter-cold and wet. That changed in 2013, when Janice made a request to use Seaman’s Lodge in Pioneer Park or the Veteran’s Hall on North Pine Street as an emergency shelter during those cold weather events. The city agreed to allow a shelter on days the venues were not rented to a prior user.


From the start, the shelter was open to anyone who showed up homeless. Rules included no alcohol or drugs on shelter premises and no fighting or loud disturbances. That first year, some altercations happened at the shelter, but the participants soon realized they needed to cooperate and help throughout their stay.


However, in the winter of 2017, Sierra Roots got an influx of more homeless people when the Salvation Army shelter closed down in Grass Valley. Lots of rules were broken and complaints came into City Hall from the neighborhood.


In 2018, Nevada County stepped forward to offer help. Sierra Roots gratefully accepted the County’s proposal to pay hourly stipends for security personnel and some overnight monitors. This arrangement marked a turning point: finally, homelessness was beginning to be truly acknowledged as a community wide issue.


Decisions to open up the shelter are determined by the Office of Emergency Services, based on specific criteria and OES-sanctioned weather predictions. OES’s involvement also means that the Sierra Roots shelter will be considered the priority user for the Vet’s Hall during extreme weather.


The Sierra Roots Weather Shelter is a production of a group of dedicated volunteers working together to build relationships with the chronically homeless men and women who show up for safety from the cold storms outside. May we inspire each other and engage ourselves toward the changes we intend to see!


Case Management

In 2021, Sierra Roots received federal funding from HUD (through HCD) to implement a Case Management and Housing program. This program had a two-prong approach to the problems of the homeless community in our area.


Prong 1 allowed Sierra Roots to hire and train a case manager. The case manager builds relationships with homeless participants in our ongoing weekly lunches, warming shelter, advocacy programs, etc.


Prong 2 allowed for a temporary revision in Sierra Roots’ ongoing motel program. This program revised its purpose to achieve the goal of moving participants closer to permanent housing. Participants signed an agreement for daily engagements with the case manager during an extended motel stay.


One overarching purpose for bringing in and providing training for a case manager is to increase sustainability by integrating our relationship-based approach into the countywide systems. In keeping with our mission objectives of reducing the traumas of homelessness and ending homelessness itself, the sustainability of this proposed program will largely come from furthering our capacity for effective outreach and integrating SR more fully into countywide plans and systems.


The federal funding for the program ended in June 2023. However, after seeing the benefits of the case manager, Sierra Roots kept on the case manager for 2 days a week, instead of the five days/week that the grant funded. These plans are contingent on receiving increased donations from the community.


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