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On any given night in Sacramento 2,400 people are homeless in our County. According to the 2011 Sacramento Homeless Count, 955 of our neighbors are sleeping on the streets. As winter rapidly approaches, Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) is seeking creative solutions to house those families and individuals who are forced to sleep outside due to overburdened resources. This harsh reality poses a dual risk to both the safety and health of those sleeping outside. Notably, Sacramento has been successful in reducing chronic homelessness by 50% in the last 3 years. However, family homelessness is on the rise; this year’s Homeless Count data shows an 11% increase.

Loaves and Fishes, which serves meals to over 800 homeless people each day recently surveyed 109 women (and 10 children) to find that 59% (66 women and 4 children) are sleeping outside or in a vehicle at night.

The recent release of the 2010 Census Bureau data paints a sobering picture of struggling Americans. According to the figures, nearly 1-in-6 adults and 1-in-5 children are currently living in poverty, the highest rate seen in 52 years. The national unemployment rate remains at 9%; in Sacramento County it has soared to almost 13%. As poverty rates increase, homelessness becomes the tragic reality for more children, families and single adults.

As the Executive Director of Sacramento Steps Forward, I urge readers to focus on the upcoming challenge of providing winter shelter for the most vulnerable in our community. 

Historically public funding has funded the Cal-Expo Winter Overflow Shelter for homeless people during the severe winter months. In 2008-2009, this funding totaled just under $700,000 and last year these funds decreased to $250,000 for winter family shelters. Last winter when there was no public funding for winter shelter for single people, SSF and the Volunteers of America partnered with the Faith Community (22 churches and 2 Mosques) to open the Winter Sanctuary Program for 100 single homeless people. Winter Sanctuary is again planned for this winter.

Currently, there is no Public-allocated funding for additional shelter for the 2011-2012 Winter, which is sure to be wet and cold.  

We are concerned that families will be out in the cold and lives may be in jeopardy, as those who are forced to sleep outside are at increased risk of illness, injury and even death. 

Launched in 2009, Sacramento Steps Forward’s (SSF) public-private partnership is bringing together the ideas, insights, and skills of a broad range of passionate organizations, businesses and individuals from across Sacramento to transform the current system serving our homeless population. SSF focuses on addressing challenges in the existing system of care, and with the active support of political leaders such as Mayor Kevin Johnson and County Supervisor Phil Serna, we strive to ensure continued public participation in developing solutions.

Sacramento’s housing providers are ready and willing to provide their shelter and services to those in need however, funding must be made available in order for this to happen. SSF is dedicated to identifying each provider’s need and assisting in coordinating a system of care to house those who would otherwise have to sleep outside in the cold. This system will allow integration into mainstream services that will hopefully lead to a permanent solution to homelessness for many families and individuals. And amidst this bad news, a bit of good: the Sacramento Region Community Foundation has awarded $30,000 in grants to the community for winter shelter. 

But your neighbors need more help. With only 61 days before winter shelter should begin (November 20, 2011) you can help provide these critically needed resources today by simply going to our website at Click the ‘Donate’ button at the top right of the screen to make a secure, tax deductible donation.

It only costs $10 a day to house someone and provide them with a meal. Your donation could save the life of a vulnerable homeless person. In return, we will provide monthly updates as to how your contribution has been used to provide shelter during these critical winter months. We will also provide a report detailing the results of the program to the community at the end of winter.