The outpouring of support for Nancy Rogerson and her granddaughters has been overwhelming to watch. We knew when we discussed publishing that story this community would get them out of the pickup truck they lived in for four freezing nights.
Three members of the Church of the 49ers in Columbia paid for a week at The Gold Lodge, and then a woman who would not give her name paid for two more weeks with a promise of more if Rogerson does not find permanent housing.
Rogerson had stayed at The Gold Lodge since last March and has had custody of her 9- and 4-year-old granddaughters since last fall. She had to leave the motel last week because another Gold Lodge resident could no longer help her with the rent.
She piled her granddaughters, their three dogs and all their belongings into their truck and spent the nights behind the PetSmart. No one, least of all Rogerson, wanted that for those precious girls.
But let’s remember Nancy Rogerson is still homeless. To be sure, she has a safe place to sleep and heat and running water, but a motel is not a permanent home.
And let’s remember one other thing. Last September when volunteers went in search of homeless people to get a more accurate count than had been done before, they found 711 people had no permanent home, many living in tents. Of that number, 177 were younger than 18. That is 25 percent of the total.
Studies have shown the fastest growing segment of homeless people are families.
Tuolumne County has so few beds suitable for families as to be embarrassing. Think about it. Would you take your children to a shelter that also includes adults of varying mental and physical health? Would you give up your family pet, the one being that can offer comfort in a time of extreme hardship?
Homeless advocates say over and over again we are all one lost job or a serious illness away from becoming homeless. The problem is, many people simply do not believe that. They would be OK. They can weather anything. Their families and friends would help.
No matter. The risk is real. Especially in a place like Tuolumne County where rents are high, real estate prices rising and affordable housing woefully short and largely inadequate.
The city of Sonora’s homeless task force has been meeting since last fall, not long after the city outlawed “camping,” a euphemism for homelessness. So far, they’ve done a lot of talking and have essentially nothing to show for it. No consensus on a direction or even a project to recommend to the city.
But here’s the ultimate truth. No city-only idea is going to solve the problem. This must be a city-county-community effort. Rogerson’s dilemma was solved by a bunch of people — more have come forward overnight — getting together to offer kindness to a neighbor.
Tuolumne County needs a family-only shelter, a large home perhaps, with individual rooms for families. A place where they can cook meals and live in community. A place where access to job training and babysitting offers hope for a new day. A place of safety.
This will cost money, but more important it will require dedication to a single-minded goal. We can do this for the benefit of Rogerson’s granddaughters and all the other children living in limbo whose names we don’t know.