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Mayor Kevin Johnson introduced Ben Burton, the first executive director of Sacramento Steps Forward, Tuesday at the weekly press conference held at City Hall. Burton and Johnson spoke about future plans for Sacramento Steps Forward, which is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to ending homelessness and building a supportive community.
According to Johnson, Sacramento Steps Forward was launched in 2009 as a response to the Oprah Winfrey show that highlighted issues in Sacramento.
“We wanted to lay out 2,400 permanent housing units in a three-year period, and we are well on our way to achieve that goal,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, Sacramento Steps Forward was officially created in February with a vision that it would be a national model for ending homelessness by providing resources to people in need.
With Johnson and Burton at the meeting were local business, political and religious leaders.
“After a lot of debate and time and effort, we think that we have selected the person who is right for this particular job at this time and who is going to do tremendous work in moving Sacramento forward,” Sacramento Steps Forward Board Chairman Chet Hewitt said.
According to Hewitt, Burton officially started Aug. 1, and he has had nine years of experience as an executive director working for the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, Inc. In the last five years, there has been a 25 percent decrease in homelessness in Miami. He also has 25 years’ experience working in nonprofits and received his bachelor’s degree in biology at Emery University and his master’s of science degree in clinical psychology from Eastern Kentucky University.
“It’s really exciting to be here and to be in a city that is trying to come together and to do something important about a serious issue,” Burton said
According to Hewitt, the selection process in choosing Burton was a national search for about four months including 40 candidates, in which eight were brought to the Sacramento area to be interviewed.
“One of the things that I think Sacramento Steps Forward stands for is really about getting people what they need in the community, and that is world-class services, access to permanent affordable housing (and) making sure there is an advocacy voice in the community.”
According to Johnson, in the last two years, homelessness has been reduced in Sacramento by 15 percent, and chronic homelessness (someone who has been homeless for a year or more or been homeless at least four times in a three year period) has been reduced by 50 percent in the last four years.
Some of the future goals for the organization include trying to be more efficient when it comes to delivering items to people and utilizing funding, whether it is through grants, public or private funding.
“Our success to date is not enough,” Hewitt said. “We believe that the folks here in Sacramento – the citizens as well as those who are facing homelessness – deserve better, and we are positioning ourselves to deliver on that particular promise.”
Johnson also spoke about efforts to continue to move forward on getting a new sports complex by March, 2012. He also spoke briefly about the new partial packages coming out that will allow fans to customize the way they can get their season tickets. For more information go to the Kings website.