Mayor, city celebrate Winter Sanctuary’s accomplishments

A group of Sacramento-area faith community leaders came out to be recognized on Tuesday for their participation in the Winter Sanctuary program to house the homeless in the winter.

“From December to March, (the) Winter Sanctuary program sheltered 550 homeless men and women,” County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan said.

It also served to aid the homeless with resources, employment and treatment of health issues, MacGlashan noted.

“(In addition), they were provided with sleeping bags and transportation each evening by bus to a safe congregation, and there the volunteers from each congregation (served) them with dinner, breakfast, social and spiritual fellowship,” MacGlashan said.

Under the Winter Sanctuary program – which was announced at a press conference 

Oct. 24 by Sacramento Steps Forward, local houses of worship opened their doors to the homeless, giving them a place to sleep.

Mayor Kevin Johnson said it was a day to appreciate and honor the people who made the inaugural Winter Sanctuary program a success.

“We have over 3,000 homeless people in our community – far too many,” Johnson said. “Our vision, in Sacramento, is to be a city that works for everyone, and what I mean by everyone (is) it means the least among us.”

Supervisor Phil Serna said he was very moved when he went out and saw the homeless’ living conditions before the Winter Sanctuary program went into effect.

“From (this) experience, I wanted to do something immediately – I want to make sure our homeless population is taken care of,” he said.

Johnson elaborated on the long-term details of his plan to curb homelessness in Sacramento.

“We want to create permanent housing units,” he said. “We have 1,600 that we have done in a little over a year. Our goal is to have 2,400 within a three-year period.”

Johnson said the faith groups, volunteers,service providers and public officials all worked together to make the Winter Sanctuary program work – a program he previously said is necessary to help the homeless until the long-term goal can be realized.

He said the churches and two mosques contributed places to sleep, volunteers helped in serving meals and putting things in order, while service providers served with things such as transportation and the public officials aided in drafting the program.

About 24 houses of worship

participated, and thousands of volunteers came out.

“We, as a community, want to step forward and take care of our community,” Johnson said. “We want to be a community that empowers the homeless to contribute to our city.”

For the list of the churches, visit the website Sacramento Steps Forward.

Among the speakers was Tony Aiken, a homeless man who said he is grateful for the program.

“Sometimes when (you) give (to the homeless), (you) give away what’s left over, but if you’re not using it, what makes you think we are going to use it?” Aiken said. “They served us first-class everything.

“Because of the blessing I have received, I am now able to help someone else,” Aiken added.

The program was led by Volunteers of America and Sacramento Steps Forward.

Among other service providers, Sacramento’s Loaves & Fishes offered space at Friendship Park to pre-screen guests 

served meals for the homeless

Various businesses, individuals and associations made financial contributions to fund the program.

Editorial Note: Corrections have been made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and the correct information has been added.

Conversation Express your views, debate, and be heard with those in your area closest to the issue. RSS Feed

April 6, 2011 | 11:59 AM

Hi Hossana,

My name is Kate Towson and I work for Sacramento Steps Forward, the agency involved in planning the Winter Sanctuary program. We are excited to have great media coverage around the Winter Sanctuary program! We really wanted the community to properly thank all of the folks involved, because we truly feel this program saved lives. That being said, I did want to make some minor corrections to some information in your article. First, we want folks to know that the program actually started on December 1 (not October 24), and ran until March 31. A total of 550 unduplicated guests were served during this time.While Loaves & Fishes partnered with us, offering space at Friendship Park for pre-screening guests, they did not provide the meals for the guests. The Staging area was a warehouse at the Loaves & Fishes complex donated for this purpose by Moe Mohanna. Each night, dedicated volunteers from the participating congregations paid for and prepared the meal for their 100 guests—both breakfast and dinner. Additionally, we wanted readers to know that it was actually two mosques that participated—Masjid Annur and SALAM Center—not just one. Masjid Annur was a partner congregation (providing a meal, volunteers and support) , and SALAM Center hosted guests.

Some participating congregations went above and beyond hosting, collecting donations and their services and donating to pay for their week of hosting. Additionally, over 80 Sacramento citizens donated to the program online.

If folks are interested in more information on Sacramento Steps Forward and Winter Sanctuary, visit our website at You can visit our partner–Volunteers of America’s–Winter Sanctuary website at

Thank you very much!
-Kate Towson
Sacramento Steps Forward

April 6, 2011 | 4:12 PM

Thank you for the corrections. I appreciate it and I will make the changes accordingly. Can you give me an email I can contact you at? Thanks.

Article Author
April 6, 2011 | 4:24 PM

Hi Hossana,

Sure thing. My email address is Feel free to email me anytime. Thanks, Hossana!


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