Nowhere To Go
Each winter, cold-and-wet weather conditions threaten the lives of the approximately 1,000 homeless men and women who live on Sacramento-area streets. With county budget cuts forcing a decrease in Winter Shelter funding, the situation continues to worsen.
A New ‘Sanctuary’
Hope for the homeless came in late 2010, when a rotating network of more than 20 interfaith congregations – under the leadership of Volunteers of America and Sacramento Steps Forward – began offering meals, shelter and fellowship as part of a new component to the Winter Shelter initiative.
While the program’s first two parts were designed to house homeless families, people with disabilities, and seniors via motel vouchers and county-funded shelter beds, the goal of the privately funded “Winter Sanctuary” was to help single adult men and women who all-too-frequently fall through the cracks of society’s foundation.
A True Success Story
Thanks to start-up funding provided by Sierra Health Foundation, Volunteers of America and Sacramento Steps Forward launched Winter Sanctuary on Dec. 1, 2010.
When the program ended its 129-day season on March 31, 2011, 24 interfaith congregations and 2,000 of their volunteers had hosted more than 545 people (370 men; 175 women). Some of these individuals spent one night, some became familiar faces to the volunteers who would greet them by name.
The community as a whole also showed its generosity, with some 80 individuals and 25 businesses and civic associations making donations.
Beyond the numbers, the inaugural season of the Winter Sanctuary program touched hearts and inspired souls.
“Winter Sanctuary was one of the very best outreach events that Arcade Church has been involved with in years,” said Pastor Dann Bryant. “We didn’t know what to expect, and we were pleasantly surprised. It truly far exceeded my expectations. It was just a great blessing for the volunteers who participated, and for the people it was administered to.”
(To view an Animoto slideshow of 2010-11 Winter Sanctuary volunteers in action, click here
How Winter Sanctuary Works
Each afternoon this winter season, Volunteers of America shuttle buses will pick up as many as 100 men and women who have been screened by Winter Sanctuary representatives at the Loaves & Fishes staging area in downtown Sacramento. (All guests sign a contract pledging “no drugs, no alcohol and no violence.”) The shuttles then take the guests to that day’s designated host site.
While the guests (who are given sleeping bags by program staff during the registration process) settle in, volunteers prepare a hot and nutritious dinner which their congregation has graciously funded.
During the inaugural Winter Sanctuary season, it wasn’t unusual for see volunteers further interact with their guests, playing board games, showing movies, giving haircuts and engaging in conversation and Bible studies.
Overnight staff, provided by Volunteers of America, ensure a safe and restful night’s sleep for all. In the morning, congregation volunteers prepare and serve breakfast before the shuttles return the guests to Loaves & Fishes.
You Can Make a Difference
Thanks to a $75,000 contribution by Wells Fargo announced Dec. 13, 2011
, the budget shortfall that threatened the continued operation of Winter Sanctuary 2011-12 was filled.
However, hosting spots are still open. If your congregation is interested in hosting homeless guests this winter, please contact: Shannon Stevens, Sacramento Steps Forward, at (916) 557-9772, or email@example.com
Participating houses of worship/faith-based organizations (2011-12)
- Arcade Church
- Capital Christian Center
- First Baptist Church of Elk Grove
- First Covenant Church of Sacramento
- Mars Hill Church
- New Life Community Church
- Restoration Life
- The Rock of Roseville
- Sacramento Central Seventh-day Adventist Church
- St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
- St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
- St. Paul Baptist Church
- St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
- Sun River Church
- This Is Pentecost Fellowship Ministries
- Trinity Life Center
- Westminster Presbyterian Church