Loaves & Fishes, the largest homeless survival service organization in the Sacramento area, is pushing forward with its Families Experiencing Homelessness Campaign to demand that county provide immediate and adequate housing for the unhoused population.
Homelessness has been a concern in Sacramento for years. On any night there are about 5,570 people homeless in the county based on a 2019 Point in Time Count.
In December of 2020, Loaves & Fishes launched an initiative to get the Sacramento Board of Supervisors to provide immediate and appropriate shelter to all unhoused families with children by January 1.
According to Shannon Dominguez-Stevens, the director of Maryhouse, the current shelter system is not only too small to accommodate for all families in need, the registration process for a spot at a shelter is also extremely difficult to navigate.
To get one of the limited spots at a shelter, “a family has to go online, which means they have to have access to a device that would allow them to go online, or they have to be able to get to a service provider who can help them.”
There is also no way of knowing how long until a space opens up because families do not know where in the queue they stand. “It’s just a big waiting game,” Dominguez-Stevens said.
Unfortunately, a December 16th meeting of the Board of Supervisors concluded that the county currently only offers 40 spaces for families in shelters and the reservation system remains the same.
Although the January 1 deadline has passed and the Board meeting did not result in what she had hoped, Dominguez-Stevens was not disheartened. “The reality is that until the County provides immediate and adequate shelter for families experiencing homelessness, they do not get to enjoy our silence” she proclaimed.
The campaign is moving into a Direct Action phase, which would typically include rallies, lobbying, and sit-ins. However, due to health concerns caused by COVID-19, Loaves & Fishes has opted for what they are considering “Direct Action from afar.”
They have put together a Direct Action Guide, a comprehensive packet including an explanation of the current system and ways community members of all ages can safely support the campaign and Sacramento’s unhoused population.
According to Joe Smith, Loaves & Fishes’ advocacy director, one of the most pressing issues in Sacramento is “generational homelessness, […] when a person experiencing homelessness was once homeless as a child.”
Broken systems contributing to generational homelessness continue to devastate lives. However, many are unsympathetic to these realities. “There’s a lot of people […] who say not in my backyard. Well guess what? It’s in everyone’s backyard. There are families sleeping in RVs and vans and cars, in tents and encampments all over Sacramento County,” Smith explained.
He hopes that in addition to promoting the campaign, the packet also sparks much-needed conversation in our community.
“We can change the narrative […] Oftentimes homelessness is a very uncomfortable subject […] It’s time that we have a conversation with our coworkers, in our churches, in our community groups. Through the direct action packet, through simple emails and correspondence we need to change the way people think and the way people feel, and then the community itself will begin to change,” Smith concluded.