North Auburn homeless shelter turnover targets July 1

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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With a $1.1 million annual contract and the blessing of the Placer County Board of Supervisors, the Gathering Inn is targeting July 1 for a smooth transition into the role of operator of the North Auburn homeless shelter.

The Gathering Inn was chosen in May by the Board of Supervisors over current operator Volunteers of America to run shelter operations  starting July 1.

The Gathering Inn has been accepting donations to help with the changeover and continue operations — from fairly large cash donations to soap and hair conditioner, CEO Keith Diederich said.

“We’re getting there,” Diederich said. “We can always use more. We’ve got a list and a lot of it has been filled. We’re still looking for gently used sofas, office furniture, things like that.”

Diederich said meal service at a facility without a kitchen is under negotiations with Right Hand Auburn, a nonprofit that established the E Avenue homeless shelter with Placer County and Volunteers of America three years ago. Right Hand Auburn worked with community organizations to establish outside meal service to the shelter.

Diederich said the Gathering Inn has filled more than half of the 25 new positions at the shelter, including transfering Gathering Inn resource center manager Nick Golling. He’ll take over as manager of what is being newly christened as the Mid-Placer Emergency Housing Program. Several shelter workers with Volunteers of America will stay on after the transition, Diederich said.

Diederich added that the organization will have everything it will need to move in July 1.

“We’re working closely with the county and Volunteers of America — they’ve been very good with the transition,” Diederich said. “We also appreciate Right Hand Auburn and what they have done to get the program off the ground.”

Diederich said that he can’t speak to the differences in processes and procedures between the Gathering Inn and what Volunteers of America have developed and are using after three years in North Auburn.

“From the Gathering Inn perspective, we’re talking about caring very much for the homeless — we actually call them guests — and in the business and finding housing,” Diederich said. “We also look at addiction issues and mental health support.”

Starting Monday, the Gathering Inn will be working with Volunteers of America onsite to make the July 1 transition.

The South Placer model is different from what the Gathering Inn will be undertaking in North Auburn. In South Placer, it houses about 75 homeless people nightly, with churches sheltering guests on a rotating basis. In North Auburn, 100 homeless people stay at the E Avenue location, which is owned by Placer County.

“If you’re Google, you want to expand your services and take your product to more people,” Diederich said. “Were in the business of serving homeless people and helping get them into housing. At the end of the day, those issues are the same if in South Placer or Mid Placer.”

Volunteers of America issued a statement in advance of the transfer stating that it has been working closely with Placer County Health and Human Services to ensure a safe transition with as little impact on the current shelter guests as possible.

Addressing the question of what items will remain at the shelter, Volunteers of America said that assets were disclosed during the request-for-proposal process ”well in advance” of the transition. After the decision in May, Gathering Inn representatives were kept informed by county staff and had a comprehensive walk-through, the statement said.

“County property was identified and confirmed by all involved, some of which included bunk bed frames, commercial washers and dryers, an ice maker and a picnic table,” the organization said.

The Volunteers of America and county have since added 100 mattresses to the inventory that will remain at the shelter.

“In-kind donations such as clothing, bedding, small toiletries, laundry soap or janitorial supplies that have been provided to the Auburn shelter by the public were immediately put to use or distributed to residents as they were received,” Volunteers of America stated. “However, donated items still remaining in inventory during the transition will stay at the Auburn shelter to help future guests.”