By Selwyn Harris
A home is destroyed by fire.
The family who lived there barely made enough to make ends meet and is now homeless.
Where do they turn for help?
That was one of the scenarios discussed during a town board meeting in April.
Pahrump resident and NyE Communities Coalition member Jon Zellhoefer delivered a presentation to board members outlining a plan to develop transitional housing for local individuals and families in financial distress.
He told the board that area agencies are working together on the project.
“The Crisis Intervention used to be known as the Homeless Assistance Program. What we are trying to do there is expand the non-profit and volunteer efforts within the town of Pahrump to assist those who find themselves in a temporary situation where they may be without a home or without shelter,” he said.
Zellhoefer also noted he was not looking for any type of financial support from the town.
“What I would ask, is that you consider a resolution that would recognize the efforts of the volunteers and the non-profits that are working with the outreach committee and that you would recognize that the Crisis Intervention effort is consistent with the mission statement of the town of Pahrump. There is an on-going need for assistance in our community at every level and there are those who fall through the cracks sometimes and need help at the bottom,” he said.
Zellhoefer defined transitional housing as a place where a family can live while they can get back on their feet following a disaster or unfortunate unforeseen occurrence.
“It’s for somebody who has found themselves out of the house because it burned down, or an unexpected financial crisis and it typically lasts no more than three months. If you look at Elko, they have a program in place. Pahrump needs to look to Nevada like other towns and unincorporated parts of Nevada. We need to have the full gambit of services any other town or city would usually provide to those who find themselves at the short-end,” he said.
Zellhoefer told the board he is hoping to get assistance from Housing and Urban Development for homes which he said will be maintained by local volunteer groups.
He noted the many vacant and foreclosed homes in the valley would be more than suitable for the project.
“They could be anywhere within the town of Pahrump. There is no particular area where we have zoned or permitted transient housing. Transient housing simply means that it’s a rental that’s for short-term use by those who have pre-qualified by special needs,” he said.
Zellhoefer told Board Member Dr. Tom Waters that there have been recent occurrences where transitional housing could have been utilized in the community.
“Without revealing specific names, I can tell you that we had two requests this past week for families that have been impacted. As a member on the board of No To Abuse we had our staff meeting and our director pointed out a serious need in our town for women and children of domestic violence and we did not have anything available for that. We had a family approximately a month ago that was burned out of their house and there was no place for them to go. We get about three requests a week that fall into this crisis intervention category,” he noted.
Zellhoefer also made mention that in many cases the families are not destitute nor are they looking for handouts.
They have just fallen on tough times as of late.
“They are simply in-crisis families so they need something to get themselves some shelter for a short period of time. In most cases they have some funds available if not all of the funds to take care of themselves but when you go out to rent, typically the landlord would want to see a term lease and this is kind of an intermediate step where it gets people over their prices, on their feet and then they can move into long-term appropriate housing,” he said.
Board member Harley Kulkin suggested that Zellhoefer contact area property managers to gauge their thoughts and feelings on the project.
“It’s a situation where one hand can wash the other and that might be beneficial to you. They might have some vacant properties and in light of what you just said, that would help get some people in there even if it was temporary. It might end up being a longer term so they have a place right away plus the owner is happy because he’s getting some rent,” he said.
Waters, meanwhile, said something clearly needs to be done about those who find themselves in dire straits through no real fault of their own.
“I’m on the committee for the Community Outreach and one of the things that we talk about is helping the needy, helping the homeless, and the people that may need transitional housing just to stay on their feet. What do we do for them? Do we just leave them on the street? Or do we have something where we can put somebody up. I think as a community we need to come together and find a way,” he said.
Board members eventually voted 3-0 to approve creating a non-financial support resolution for the Crisis Intervention Committee.
The resolution will be presented at the next town board meeting.