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Sacramento Steps Forward's Five Principles:
Sacramento Steps Forward has been an unofficial ally of Sacramento County's Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness for several years, but only two short months ago, they became established as an official non-profit organization partially funded by the government. The program aids homeless persons by organizing events such as Sacramento Homeless Connect, Winter Shelter, and the newest event, Winter Sanctuary. They encourage monetary donations of any amount and volunteer services.
Sacramento Homeless Connect is a one-day event held at Sacramento City College each Spring. Activities and services that are offered there include hot lunches, clothing, hygiene and health care, yoga instruction, medical exams, legal advice, personal massages, Driver's License processing, nutritional information, and bicycle raffles. Last year, over 1,000 homeless men, women, and children were in attendance, and that number is expected to grow next year.
The Winter Shelter is a program specifically for homeless families. SSF and Volunteers of America joined together to secure churches and other places of worship as shelter for these people during the winter months (December-March). The first component of this shelter is the "motel voucher program targeted at homeless families, people with disabilities, and the elderly," according to the website. The second component was fifty county-funded shelter beds. Because county budgets have been cut and most public funding is geared toward homeless families, single adults without a place to reside are left with few options.
The Winter Sanctuary is the refuge for these single homeless adults. The program began on December 1st, 2010 and ran until March 31st, 2011. Twenty-four different interfaith congregations participated throughout the winter, opening their doors whenever possible to up to 100 individuals. During their one-night stay, guests received a sleeping bag and were then bused to the shelter from the staging area at the Loaves & Fishes complex. Guests also received a simple dinner and breakfast during their stay, provided by the dedicated volunteers. Winter Sanctuary will continue this winter, with similar processes and Volunteers of America serving at the host site.
In addition to private donations, Sacramento Steps Forward is funded governmentally. Funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shift to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, which then decides how the funds are divided based on need. According to Michele Watts, with an estimated cost of $10.50 per person per night, and one hundred guests at each host site during the winter, Winter Sanctuary alone requires $126,000.
This report was written for Cynthia Linville's English1A class at Sacramento State University, Fall 2011. My visit to Sacramento Steps Forward's offices was welcomed by all staff members. Many establishments treat students as citizens-in-training, and fail to take them seriously. But Ben Burton's Executive Assistant greeted me with a smile at the front desk, and immediately took me through the labyrinth of cubicles to Mr. Burton's office. Smiling, he greeted me and offered me a seat on the couch, where we talked for several minutes about my report, my role as a student, and of course, the organization. He then introduced me to the rest of the staff and took me on a tour of the offices. After talking with the Program Manager, Michele Watts, and having learned much more than I had expected, I left the meeting, knowing that I had more than enough information to write my report successfully. —TaylorHaines