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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.