If Frank Sinatra was alive today and came back to our beautiful-diverse city of Sacramento, I’m sure he would agree. I’ve lived here for almost 24 years and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, except maybe Colorado where my son now lives. Besides the warmer weather, the people here are the best in the West. I love Sacramento!
This story is about homelessness, the people that came out of it, and the many that help us get off the streets, to help us become a part of society, and enjoy life again. By God’s mercy I’ve been clean and sober for almost 20 years and un-homeless since 1992. To God be the glory for all the many wonderful, caring people from Sacramento that help us along the way, so we don’t starve, get murdered, or freeze to death out there. The homeless can’t make it without the help of Salvation Army, St. John’s Shelter, Loaves and Fishes, SHRA, Welfare, and so many others that volunteer their services to help feed, clothe, and give a place to stay at their Inn. When my Emphysema and other health issues became so severe that I could no longer work, Welfare and SHRA came to the rescue while waiting for my SSDI to come through. I would have been homeless again along with my daughter if not for them, and close friends and family, too. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping me. Advocates for the homeless estimate that at least 1,000 people (including children) are without permanent housing every night in Sacramento County.
I first came to this beautiful city in 1989, from the north suburbs of Illinois on two semi trucks, and a car. I had become homeless after being locked out of a house, and had been drinking a bit too much for most of my life, too. Alcoholism seems to run in my family from way back. My Great Grandma was a bootlegger during prohibition days in Oklahoma. It was early spring and the shelters were closing up. My son was almost 13 at the time and on his way with the YMCA on a ski trip to Denver, CO. My stepdad took very good care of my son when I was unable (most of his life), but he’s the one that locked me out of the house, because I threatened and swore at him several times. I was very drunk, too. The house was paid for when my dear dad died from a heart attack in 1971. My mom later married my stepdad and then she died in 1981 from cancer. When my mom knew she had only 6 months left to live, she told me that she wanted to change the will, so that my stepdad would live in the house for 6 more years (as long as they had been married), and then the house would be divided between my 2 brothers and myself. After the 6 years was up I confronted my stepdad, and he’s still living there after 37 years. When the shelter closed I went to a truck stop and got a ride to Denver on two semi trucks. I started walking along the road with my big plastic bag of clothes, and a very kind man pulled over to offer me a ride. I explained how I wanted to see my son and he took me to the ski resort. It was so crowded and I didn’t even know where he was staying. It was getting very cold and close to night time, so instead of freezing to death in the mountains, this kind man took me to CA with him. He was going to Los Angeles but said that he would drop me off in Sacramento. I had never been to this city before then, but I’ve made it my home, and been here ever since. He gave me a pack of smokes and $5 as I had nothing but my Bible and clothes. I hope to never forget that delicious piece of strawberry shortcake that someone from Salvation Army gave me when I got in just before midnight. Then they brought me to a big auditorium where 100 other people were sleeping on mats. Three years later I became pregnant (1992) and saved enough money working at a motel cleaning rooms to get a small apt. downtown. Thank God I have not been homeless since and have a beautiful daughter who will be 20 this summer. My son will be 37 just ten days after hers. The Lord gave me 17 years to get it together! I was only homeless for 3 years but too many have been on the streets without a home for most of their lives. My daughter’s dad is one of them. Thanks to getting his Veteran’s Disability in November, he is finally un-homeless and staying in a motel. Ron is very grateful and happy to finally have a roof over his head, after living on the streets for about 35 years of his 56. He wants to get an apartment, but can’t because according to all the apt. managers where he filled out applications, he must have rental references. How can he have any references if he has been homeless so long? I worry about Ron going back to the streets again this spring. Motel rates are going up and it doesn’t leave much left for him to eat for the month. I pray someone can help him get a cheap apt. or trailer soon.
The Salvation Army has been a godsend to us and millions more. They are an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church and its ministry is motivated by the love of God. They provide family and shelter services, food, help with rent and utilities, bus tickets, and even gasoline vouchers, to thousands every day.
The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center is a six-month program built on a model designed to help transition individuals into a productive life. They receive housing, nourishing meals and necessary medical care. They also benefit from processing groups, spiritual guidance and skilled counseling in clean and wholesome surroundings. The Adult Rehabilitation Center operates 365 days a year at no cost to the participant. One hundred percent of the program cost is raised through the sale of donated goods of The Salvation Army Thrift Stores. Most every time I clean my closets or cabinets out I donate to them, trying to give back for all they did for me. Other times I give to Goodwill.
Another place I stayed at was St. John’s Shelter, when it was downtown next to the church. In 2004, St. John’s moved to a larger facility at 4410 Power Inn Rd, and today offers a 90-day program providing space for up to 115. Since 1985, the program has provided a safe and supportive haven to more than 25,000 displaced homeless women and children. I had the privilege of attending a volunteer orientation, and was greeted by two very kind ladies, Sara Amin who is the Volunteer Coordinator, and Kena Llamas, who has been helping to run the shelter the past 5 years, and covers all departments. Kena was once homeless and stayed at St. John’s years ago (her story is below). 300 volunteers are helping on a monthly basis now but there is always room for more to get involved. The program is rooted in one-on-one case management and provides comprehensive services to its residents. Residents develop a Progress Plan with weekly and monthly goals, as well as community service requirements. Residents are also required to attend weekly classes and workshops on topics such as job skills and training, parenting, fitness and nutrition, budgeting and financial management, basic computer skills, domestic violence counseling, mental health counseling, and drug and alcohol treatments programs. St John’s Shelter also offers a GED training program for its residents and alumnae, and an After-Care Program, to assist women and children on their road to self-sufficiency after leaving the shelter and completing the 90-day program. The After-Care Program offers a continuation of training, classes, and counseling to help ensure that the program’s graduates successfully reintegrate into our community. Graduates receive continued job training and placement services, assistance in furnishing homes, transportation assistance, case assistance, and the support of a wide network of successful alumnae. During this past year, St. John’s Shelter helped place 93% of their employment-training graduates into jobs earning an average wage of more than $11 an hour! I was so touched when I read these stories about 3 women who stayed at St. John’s and have turned their lives around completely. Praise God!
Kena was living in a storage unit without any of her children, terrified, jobless and homeless. Her life had spiraled downward after her home care client died and she and her 3 children had to leave her home, with nowhere else to go. Then she was badly injured in a car accident and could no longer drive or walk well. Her children went to their father and Kena was alone. The VOA found her at the storage unit, took her to a motel, and then to St. John’s which miraculously had room for her immediately. Kena is a strict and structured mother. She is also a committed helping person. Giving comes naturally to her and gives her great satisfaction. At St. John’s she not only embraced and followed the rules but voluntarily took on big projects to help support the center. She felt she was and continues to be a contributing member of a supportive and loving community. Kena is finishing an internship at St. John’s and hopes to become a supervisor. She lives in a town home with all of her children. She makes a 3 hour commute so that her kids can live only a few blocks from their father’s. Her hopes for them are high-good grades, happiness and success in the world, and she passionately believes she will help them get there.
Margaret grew up in Compton, California, when it was still a middle class family neighborhood with decent schools and safe streets. Her parents are still there but Compton has changed completely, to a dangerous place dominated by gangs, guns and drugs. When Margaret’s daughter was killed by a gunshot, leaving Margaret’s 8 year old grandson Cori, she knew she could not raise him in Compton. Despondent, but determined, she researched communities and women’s shelters on the internet. She got on a bus to Sacramento with $100 to her name. She paid for a motel room and started calling. Miraculously, St. John’s had 2 spaces and Margaret and Cori were at the door immediately. Margaret was amazed by St. John’s, where she found all the support she needed to care for Cori and find a job and housing-right down to help with her job application to the state Franchise Tax Board. She was hired as a seasonal employee, but was quickly promoted to tax program technician and became a permanent employee with benefits. Margaret has just moved into a house with a yard and plans to take in foster children so that she can give them the childhood she has created for Cori.
Avon needed help from a long drug addiction and devastating relapse. A friend referred her to St. John’s, where she called daily for weeks, until she was finally admitted. Today there are 200-300 on a waiting list, which may take days to months before getting in. Eventually Avon revived her grant writing business and joined staff as Director of Operations. Today she is a strong advocate and involved with C.A.S.H. (Community Against Sexual Harm)
Loaves and Fishes saved my life one day, back in 1989. My left thumb had become so infected, that I had a thin red line going up to my shoulder (blood poisoning). Loaves and Fishes paid for a taxi and had me taken to U.C. Davis Emergency right away. If I had waited much longer, that poisoned red line would have gone to my chest, and I could have died from a heart attack. Loaves & Fishes feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless. Founded in 1983, they serve each person with the belief that "as often as you did it for one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me." (Matthew 25:40) Loaves & Fishes is a private charity; it neither solicits nor accepts government money, but relies solely on private donations to support its work of feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. They can focus more time and energy on serving those in need and less on satisfying the government bureaucracy. The heart and soul of the Loaves and Fishes program, Friendship Park, is a private park that provides activities, information and a safe environment for their guests during the day. The Park provides telephones and free local telephone calls to their guests. There is an Information Service Center to assist and sign up guest for services: Noon meal, hair cut vouchers, toiletries, and locker storage. With the help of donations from the community, Loaves and Fishes built a Wash House which provides laundry service for our homeless guests as well as a place for men to shower and shave (with toiletries included). Friendship Park’s Day Labor employment referral services help men and women that are willing and able to work in a wide range of jobs including yard work, construction and moving. Often disconnected from family and friends, guests who have died are remembered through memorial services at the Memorial Wall where their names are etched in stone never to be forgotten. The Memorial Wall is located over a waterfall and pond in a peaceful corner of the Park. Loaves and Fishes offer so many programs from helping animals to the mentally ill. They have a library, dining room, school, daytime shelter for women and children called the Maryhouse, advocacy, and so much more. The dining room serves a full course, home-cooked, noontime meal for 600-800 homeless guests every day. Over 1000 volunteers including church groups, company employee groups, service clubs and individuals alike, help serve guests the only meal many of them will have all day. A separate dining room is available for women and children each morning for breakfast through the Loaves & Fishes Maryhouse Program. This meal is cooked and served by volunteers every day, also. When I stayed at the Maryhouse in 1989, I remember this sweet little girl who made me a beautiful Mother’s Day card (I still have it in one of my Bibles, too). It was so hard being away from my son and I cried almost every day. Maryhouse has helped thousands of women and children since 1986. Because of funding and not enough room they have to turn away hundreds every night. The school is called “The Mustard Seed“ and has been established since 1989. It is a free private school for ages 3-15 and provides a safe, nurturing and structured environment, a positive learning experience, and happy memories. There are survival resources of food, clothing and shelter referrals, medical and dental screenings, immunization updates, counseling for children and their parents, and assistance entering or reentering public schools. It’s sad enough to see the adults without a home but even worse when the children have to go through it, too. At least they all stay together, and have help from all these wonderful people, and many organizations that volunteer, donate, and help get them through. Once off the streets, life is very good again, and it feels even better to be a part of “Our kind of town, Sacramento is”.
Yes, this is my kind of town, a town where more people care than the town I came from, a town where more give back than what was taken of, my kind of town, Sacramento is.
If Ol’ Blue Eyes were alive today, he’d probably change some of the words to that great Chicago song to go something like this:
Now this could only happen to a guy like me And only happen in a town like this So may I say to each of you most gratef’lly As I throw each one of you a kiss This is my kind of town, Sacramento is My kind of town, Sacramento is My kind of people too, People who smile at you And each time I roam, Sacramento is Calling me home Sacramento is Why I just grin like a clown, It’s my kind of town My kind of town, Sacramento is My kind of town, Sacramento is My kind of razzmatazz, And it has all that rock, gospel, metal, rapp, N jazz And each time I leave, Sacramento is Tuggin’ my sleeve Sacramento is The Music Circus, Historic State Parks, The Capitol, and The Delta Queen Sacramento is The River Cats, Fine Arts, Theatres, The Kings, and The Best Libraries Sacramento is One town that won’t let you down, It’s my kind of town!
For information about St. John’s Shelter, how you can help, and more success stories please go to: stjohnsshelter.org or call (916) 453-1482. Their address is: 4410 Power Inn Rd. Sacramento, CA 95826
For information about the Loaves and Fishes Programs please go to: sacloaves.org/programs or call (916) 446-0874. Their address is: 1321 North C. St. Sacramento, CA 95811
For information about Salvation Army please go to: usw.salvationarmy.org or call (916) 442-0331 The Salvation Army Shelter Emergency Lodge is at: 1200 N B St. Sacramento, CA 95814