Carmichael Confronts Homelessness

From Carmichael HART  |  2019-02-06

Providing Shelter, Counseling, Housing

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - For the second year, hundreds of volunteers from churches, nonprofit organizations, and local businesses are doing something about Carmichael’s homeless people.

Carmichael HART’s (Homeless Assistance Resource Team) Winter Sanctuary provides safe overnight shelter to dozens of people coming in from the cold for nine weeks -- Dec. 30 through March 2.

Guests of HART’s 2nd Winter Sanctuary can get a hot dinner, clean clothes and sometimes showers. They’re given a cot and sleeping bag for the night and are transported back with a breakfast bag to an intake center by 6 a.m. the next morning. Many homeless people are repeat visitors.

“It’s more than a hot meal and a cot,” Carmichael HART President Scott Young said at the charity’s January meeting. “We offer housing leads, help with acquiring IDs, and assist with transportation to help people get to that point where housing is possible for them. Our long-term goal is to get as many people as we can off the streets and into housing. To do that, establishing trust with Winter Sanctuary guests is crucial.”

Barbara Farley, a sanctuary organizer, said hundreds of volunteers are getting to know homeless people on a first-name basis at the local churches that are hosting. 14 people transitioned to housing during and immediately following last year’s Winter Sanctuary. This season, one person already has moved into permanent housing.

Sacramento County’s Department of Public Health trained more than a dozen sanctuary leaders in hygiene measures, which have been implemented. Doctors and nurses from Dignity Health’s Mercy-San Juan Hospital volunteer on Thursday nights to treat wounds, provide non-prescription drugs, and make health referrals.

Financial and other support is coming churches, individuals, and community organizations such as the Carmichael Improvement District (CID), a nonprofit corporation of businesses along the Fair Oaks corridor. The district spends about half of its $310,000 in annual assessments on security measures. It also pays for beautification projects, arranges litter cleanup, graffiti removal, and waste abatement. Gary Hursh, a Carmichael attorney, the district’s past president and current chairman of its Security Committee, says HART and its Winter Sanctuary are good investments.

He said the program last winter took dozens of homeless people off the streets and away from store doorways and other sleeping spots on business property.
“Shuffling people around is not a solution,” he said in an interview. “The next step, in my opinion, is for CID to partner with nonprofits that find and provide housing for the homeless. HART is providing a solution.”

Deputy Kevin Hee of the Sheriff’s Department Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), told HART meeting attendees: “We all agree that we can’t jail and arrest everybody out there. We’re looking at getting services to the homeless. There’s an exponential explosion of homelessness in California. Every community is affected.”

Besides churches, sheriff’s deputies and business leaders, other HART partners are Sacramento Self Help Housing, ATLAS of Carmichael with its thrift store, the local Chamber of Commerce, the San Juan Unified School District, and Sacramento County.

County Supervisor Susan Peters offered this assessment: “Carmichael HART has a proven track record of success, and its Winter Sanctuary program reflects the dedication of the community’s faith-based organizations to help those in need who find themselves homeless.”

Paul Keefer, a trustee of the Sacramento County Board of Education who is working on a               HART plan to help homeless students, stated “As a volunteer for the Carmichael HART Winter Sanctuary I was impressed by the training and guidance that our team received from Sacramento County.”

“Wonderful people are coming with a willingness to help, saying, ‘We want to be part of this,” Farley said at the HART meeting. She reported that 78 different guests participated in last year’s Winter Sanctuary, whereas more than 30 different homeless people have come in the first three weeks of the program this year. Young said volunteers are winning the trust of their guests and are seeing dramatic changes in attitudes and a willingness to accept assistance.  

“We should all have the same goal,” he said. “Whatever our reasons for getting people off the streets, our goal should be the same -- getting people housed. Ultimately, we all want our communities to thrive. As long as we have people camped on our sidewalks, next to our businesses and on our back lots – it remains a distant goal. The only way we’ll see effective change is to get people housed. It’s all about getting people housed.” 

Earlier this year, Governor Newsom announced that he was going to make housing his top priority, and called for 3.5 million new homes to be built in California within six years.  I believe this is a laudable top priority, and have previously written about the great need in our region for more housing. To start with, Governor Newsom wisely announced $500 million in awards to cities and counties that meet new, short-term housing goals.  I believe the enticement of these funds can propel real change, and I hope Sacramento County will win some of this money.

Unfortunately, Governor Newsom coupled this “carrot” with an extremely dangerous “stick”, in the form of withholding gas tax money from cities and counties that don’t meet the regional housing targets set by the state.  This has shaken virtually the entire state, as 97% of California cities and counties (including Sacramento County) are not hitting their housing targets.

This plan has a fundamental flaw in logic because it ties gas tax money to production goals, when counties are only accountable for planning.  We should, and do, encourage housing through the land use process, but the decision whether to build more housing comes largely from factors outside our control.  We cannot force builders to build, nor can we force financial institutions to lend the builders money.

Even when projects have been approved, lately we are seeing production slowed down because the builders cannot find enough carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. to do the work, in part because the state has seemingly abandoned vocational education.  Too few schools have a “shop class”, and too many children have been told that college was the only route to success, when in reality jobs working in the trades can often pay more than jobs that require a college education.

Beyond that, I believe it’s wrong to threaten our gas tax road funding, especially after voters went to the polls last November and voted to keep the gas tax.  I’m not sure the gas tax repeal would have failed, had voters known the funding could be taken away for something entirely out of their control.

Our roads cannot bear even a small reduction in funding.  As I wrote about earlier this year, even with the gas tax in place, the County needs an additional $15-20 million yearly just to maintain the roads at the current level, or an additional $50 million yearly to get them to a standard people would describe as “good”.  

If Governor Newsom is serious about wanting to build 3.5 million new homes in California, beyond incentives he needs to look at the high cost of construction.  It is extremely expensive for a builder in California to conform to the unique regulations contained within the California Environmental Quality Act, and the enormous California Building Code grows larger each year.  These regulations are part of the reason that a home in California is 2.4 times more expensive than a comparable home in Texas.

There are potential solutions to this housing crisis, but threatening counties like Sacramento for a problem out of our control ignores the root of the problem, and is ultimately doomed to fail.

Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Homelessness and housing instability forces families to make hard choices about the necessities of life and can make a significant impact on a family’s overall well-being. For families receiving reunification and family maintenance services through child welfare, Sacramento County is helping to address these housing needs with the Bringing Families Home housing program.

The goal of this program is to reduce the number of families experiencing homelessness, increase family reunification, and prevent foster care placements.

Bringing Families Home is a California Department of Social Services grant-funded program that began July 2017 and has already supported 87 families in need of housing services. Over the next year, the program will secure housing for a minimum of 100 Sacramento County families who are completing court-ordered services and working towards family reunification.

“Housing is a basic need and when parents are experiencing homelessness and housing instability, this need is often prioritized over the required services needed for reunification,” said Sacramento County Program Planner, Niku Mohanty-Campbell.

“Child Protective Services works to provide housing stability while also allowing parents to better engage in services and address the issues that brought them to the attention of child welfare. Bringing Families Home allows for more safe and timely reunification and can prevent future foster care placements, overall supporting better child welfare outcomes,” he stated.

To address the housing needs of Child Protective Services families, the Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services has partnered with the County’s Department of Human Assistance along with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and other organizations to provide families with an initial assessment, service and support to obtain housing, and short term case management once housing is located.

Families are referred to the Bringing Families Home program by their social worker. The program is voluntary, but participation in Family Reunification or family maintenance services is required for program eligibility. The program prioritizes families that are homeless, however, can serve those that are facing housing instability, which includes when a family is at imminent risk of losing their housing.

“Bringing Families Home works to address the barriers to obtaining and maintaining permanent housing for those who are homeless, at-risk of becoming homeless or are receiving Family Reunification or Family Maintenance services,” said Michelle Callejas, Sacramento County Director of Child, Family and Adult Services.

“Through this grant and partnership, we are able to help families find a house, pay up to a double deposit and provide families a rental subsidy for three months after they move in,” she added.

If your family or a family you know is receiving child welfare services and is interested in participating in the housing program, contact Sacramento County Program Planner, Niku Mohanty-Campbell or email

Bringing Families Home is one of several County programs helping families and individuals experiencing homelessness transition to permanent housing stability. Ongoing County programs include the County’s Flexible Supportive Re-Housing Program, the CalWORKS Housing Support Program as well as new programs, such as the Flexible Housing Pool (FHP), an $8 million re-housing program funded through the new State Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

Launching in May, FHP will help resolve homelessness for up to 600 households, including vulnerable seniors, those engaged with criminal justice, unsheltered individuals and families, and those staying in an emergency shelter.

For additional information on County homeless activities, visit Sacramento County’s Responding to Homelessness webpage.


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SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada (VOA) has launched a 40-bed transitional housing and employment services program for veterans experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County.

The program provides furnished temporary housing in individual studio apartments, meals, life skills and financial management classes, pre-employment and vocational training, employment placement assistance, substance abuse support, housing location and transportation services to single male and female veterans. This program is funded through a grant awarded to VOA from the Veterans Administration and is the only “Service Intensive Transitional Housing” program for Veterans in Sacramento County.

“We are very excited to add this invaluable program to Volunteers of America’s existing services for veterans in Sacramento County at Mather Community Campus,” says VOA Division Director, Sherman Haggerty. “This program will allow a unique group of veterans the extra time and help needed to meet their goal of achieving independent living.”

This program offers the first new transitional housing beds for homeless veterans in Sacramento County, in over three years. The housing units are conveniently located at VOA’s Mather Community Campus adjacent to VOA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families, Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program and the Veteran Service Center all located on the same campus. These housing units are also conveniently located near Sacramento’s Veterans Hospital Administration Hospital. Additional housing units are currently under construction at the Mather campus which will increase local housing inventory.

Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada provides specialized programs for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in the Greater Sacramento area. Services include rapid re-housing, case-management and homeless prevention. A large focus is heavily placed on increasing veteran men's and women's employment possibilities through life and job skills classes. 

Founded locally in 1911, the Northern California & Northern Nevada office of Volunteers of America is one of the largest providers of social services in the region. The professional paid staff operates more than 50 programs in categories that include: crisis housing, supportive housing, employment and training services, and corrections. In fact, Volunteers of America provides shelter or housing to nearly 1,800 men, women and children every night in Northern California. Nationally, Volunteers of America helps more than 2.5 million people annually in more than 400 communities. Learn more about Volunteers of America Northern California & Northern Nevada at

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SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - In 2017, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved funding and implementation of four major initiatives to address critical needs of those experiencing homelessness and to help reduce the homeless population. Subsequently, two associated augmentations were added to further address the needs of all vulnerable population groups. The first programs began in October of 2017, several began in 2018 and many are in the process of becoming operational. In just one year’s time, the County has achieved phenomenal results from these new initiatives. 

  • Improve the Family Crisis Response and Shelters (October 2017)
    • 146 families served in shelter
    • 50 moved to permanent housing
  • Preserve Mather Community Campus (October 2017)
    • 351 individuals served in transitional housing
    • 116 moved to permanent housing
  • Full Service Rehousing Shelter (March 2018)
    • 91 individuals in scattered-site shelters
    • 19 moved to permanent housing
  • Flexible Supportive Re-housing Program (February 2018)
    • 191 individuals enrolled
    • 94 moved into permanent housing
  • Transitional Aged Youth (May 2018)
    • 115 served with prevention, diversion and intervention services
    • 35 moved to permanent housing
    • 32 maintained housing through services
    • 17 entered emergency shelter
  • Unincorporated County Navigation Services (April 2018)
    • 177 served through outreach and rehousing services
    • 30 moved to permanent housing


In total, 416 individuals have moved into permanent housing since the start of the first initiative in October 2017. 

“We are thrilled to share the success that our programs have had in this first year. In some programs, success has been demonstrated in mere months,” said Ann Edwards, Director of the Department of Human Assistance. “We are reaching people we have never been able to engage and they are seeing a real difference in their lives.”

On Oct. 16, 2018, the County Board of Supervisors endorsed the investment strategy for nearly $20 million in new State funding to combat homelessness in partnership with Sacramento Steps Forward and the City of Sacramento. On Dec. 11, the Board of Supervisors approved the acceptance of more than $11 million that the Department of Human Assistance will directly administer, building of the existing initiatives to reduce homelessness.

State funding comes through the State’s new Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program. The funds will provide additional emergency shelter for both families and individuals through Emergency Family Shelter and the Full Service Rehousing Shelters (FSRS). The FSRS is a scattered-site model using master leasing of vacant homes in the region to house up to five persons in addition to a fulltime house monitor. Residents are provided with intensive case management services and rehousing assistance to help them exit the program into stable, permanent housing with the support they need.

The funding also will create a Flexible Housing Pool (building on the Flexible Supportive Rehousing Program) that will offer both services and re-housing assistance to help households in shelter or working with navigation programs to move into housing more quickly.

For the first time, clients experiencing homelessness who are engaged in Adult Protective Services or jail diversion will be offered this practical assistance to resolve their homelessness. The County will also administer a new expungement clinic to help remove barriers to housing and employment. 

To be eligible to administer and receive the HEAP funds, the Board of Supervisors declared a shelter crisis on Oct. 16. Other cites declaring a crisis and participating in the program include the City of Sacramento, Elk Grove and Citrus Heights.

On Dec. 12, The Board of Supervisors heard and adopted the proposed Sacramento County Homeless Plan that is required to facilitate participation in the State’s No Place Like Home (NPLH) program. This program provides funding for new permanent supportive housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, and who are also living with a serious mental illness and in need of mental health services. In NPLH developments, the County will provide a 20-year commitment to comprehensive services, including behavioral health services.

In addition to meeting State requirements for NPLH, the County’s Plan serves as a building block for all partners within Sacramento County to implement shared strategies that make a measureable impact on homelessness. The Plan was endorsed by the City of Sacramento and County Continuum of Care on Dec. 12.

“The County Homeless Plan reflects countless hours of collaboration with County departments, community groups, stakeholders and other jurisdictions within our region,” said Cindy Cavanaugh, Director of Homeless Initiatives. “The Plan lays out comprehensive strategies and concrete actions for Sacramento over the next several years. While pleased with early results of our homeless initiatives, this Plan says that, as a community, we are not letting up.”

Sacramento County will be eligible for $5,087,737 through the noncompetitive NPLH funding for housing developments, and is eligible to apply for a share of $400 million in competitive funds. The Board of Supervisors will approve development applications for the first round of NPLH competitive funding on Jan. 29. 

With the initial success of the Sacramento County homeless i​nitiatives and additional funding sources for expansion, collaborative community partnerships, and dedicated service providers, Sacramento County recognizes that change is possible for our community and the lives of its valued residents.

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Hats for the Homeless

By Margaret Snider  |  2018-12-26

Elder Barrows, center and Elder Dunyon offer hats to a homeless woman during the recent storm as City of Rancho Cordova senior code enforcement officer looks on with a smile. Photo by Gary McFadyen

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - A storm with heavy rain and wind had just passed through Rancho Cordova the night before. Married couple Eric and Cathi Niven, with six young women and 10 young men, all missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all wearing Santa hats, made their way through the puddles near Folsom Boulevard. They came bearing bags of knitted and handmade hats, scarves, quilts and blankets for the homeless. City of Rancho Cordova Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) members Kerry Simpson and Russ Ducharme worked with the group as liaison between the missionaries and the homeless.

Eric and Cathi Niven are from Monticello, Utah. Cathi Niven told Monticello resident Jeri Burt how much she would like to help the homeless in the Sacramento area. Before long over 200 items had been made and shipped to Sacramento. “(Cathi) called me and asked me if I could make some scarves and stuff,” said Jeri Burt. “Of course I already had a jump start on it.”  Burt makes a practice of forming groups to crochet hats and scarves for those in need, and many from Monticello and La Sal, Utah, were excited to be part of it. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like you can do near enough, but just touching one person at a time is just a huge blessing,” Burt said.

Simpson said that homeless people are not spending their days looking for work or finding a way to get income. “They’re thinking about how they’re going to feed themselves, where are they going to sleep?” Simpson said. “When they’re out in the elements, where are they going to get that warm coat when the weather changes?” 

William Hawkins, 68, accepted a hat. He used to be a maintenance man and worked for general contractors. He was a character actor and backstage tech in Broadway shows. Then he had two heart attacks and heart failure, lost his place and has been homeless for two years. He’s seen a lot of suffering, and gone through it himself. “I’m not saying things I’m thinking about, I’m saying things I know,” Hawkins said. “Because what I think isn’t worth a dime, it’s what I know that counts.”  Hawkins was glad to see the young people helping others, and said it shows how things are improving. “These young people are (helping), Hawkins said. “You go to get on the light rail, they want to help you, they hold doors for you, they’re more than happy to.” 

Cathi Niven took a picture of Hawkins and another man receiving hats. “We sent (the picture) immediately to the lady who had actually done the knitting, and she was excited to see that,” Cathi Niven said. The missionaries timed the distribution to coincide with the first day of the annual Latter-day Saint global initiative called Light the World. Thousands participate in individual and group service from December 1 to 29. (see

The City of Rancho Cordova Homeless Outreach Team includes Simpson, who coordinates, two Rancho Cordova police officers, Ducharme as senior code enforcement officer for the City and two individuals for cleanup. A homeless navigator travels the City helping the homeless obtain IDs, driver’s licenses, social security cards, whatever is needed. “Team members’ positions overlap,” said Rancho Cordova communications officer, Ashley Downton, “with the core purpose to build relationships with homeless individuals and families, and provide services, education, and resources in partnership with local organizations, to help them become self-sufficient.” 

While the missionaries were finding people who needed the hats and quilts, Rancho Cordova resident Jennifer Barnes came by, who used to be homeless herself. Now with a job and a place to stay, she doesn’t forget those among whom she lived. Daily she comes out to check on people she knows, to bring them something or just see how they are getting along. “It’s really hard,” Barnes said. “You have a choice to either rise above it or get stuck. There are some people who get stuck.”  The missionaries gave Barnes a pile of the homemade items on December 1 to distribute to people she sees, and Ducharme spoke with her about helping the City to make contact with people who need help.

“It’s a collaborative effort between many people in the community,” Downton said. “Together we can make a difference and help change peoples’ lives.” 

This can happen by connecting not only with people in our community, but also joining the efforts of people in Monticello, Utah, with others in Rancho Cordova, California.

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Sacramento Self-Help Housing Presents First-Ever Drive

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - On Saturday, December 15, 2018, Sacramento Self-Help Housing (SSHH) will host its first-ever “Housewarming for the Homeless” winter donation drive at the Cal Expo main gate loop from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. To make it as easy as possible for the community to participate, SSHH staff and dedicated volunteers will be on-hand to collect linens (such as blankets, single and double bed sheets and towels), small appliances (such as microwaves, toasters and coffee makers) and kitchenware to be distributed to hundreds of recently homeless individuals in Sacramento County.

Sacramento Self-Help Housing is a non-profit 501(c)3 agency dedicated to assist those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless to find and retain stable and affordable housing. With significant support provided by Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, SSHH successfully opened 30+ transitional and permanent supportive houses for the most vulnerable in our community in 2018. Looking forward to 2019, SSHH expects to do the same. In response to this rapid growth and as a result of the ever-increasing number of homeless men, women and families in Sacramento County, SSHH is garnering donations to assist with the transition of their clients from the street and onto a path of sustainable independent permanent housing.

The “Housewarming for the Homeless” needs list includes the following: Linens: bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, single and twin bed sheets, blankets, bed pillows, dish towels; Appliances: microwaves, toasters, coffee pots; Kitchenware: dishes, pots, pans, silverware

Each donation, big or small, will go directly to furnishing a home for a recently homeless individual or family in our community. For more information about Sacramento Self-Help Housing, please call 916-341-0593 or visit

Sacramento Self-Help Housing assists local homeless individuals and families worried about losing their housing to find and retain stable and affordable housing. The not-for-profit organization provides resources such as an updated housing database on the website along with shared housing options for those without sufficient income to rent a unit by themselves. In addition, Sacramento Self-Help Housing reaches out to local homeless men and women living in camps in local communities to assess their needs and, whenever possible, refer them to available mental health services, medical care, financial aid, and shelter and housing options. For more, visit or call 916-341-0593.

Source: T-Rock Communications

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