Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento County finds some funding for winter shelters

Sacramento County will provide $150,000 toward winter shelter programs

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Sacramento County has come up with $150,000 to provide housing for 75 to 100 homeless people this winter.

The money, which was supposed to fill jobs at the Department of Human Assistance, will instead be used to place homeless people with children in apartments, hotels and existing shelters during the cold and rainy nights ahead, officials said.

The county, which is turning over administration of millions of dollars in homeless services to a private entity, had previously said that it was unable to contribute any money to winter sheltering this year.

But amid pressure from advocates for the homeless, officials scraped together the same amount of money provided last year.

Before its recent budget crisis, the county spent up to $700,000 to house homeless people from November through March at Cal Expo.

"A number of us were concerned about the changing weather, and realized we needed to do something," Supervisor Phil Serna said Tuesday. "We realized we needed to look at our resources very carefully and pull something together."

Advocates expressed relief, but said they have much work to do to fund shelter for 100 or more single people as winter bears down on the Valley.

"This is wonderful news," said Christie Holderegger of Volunteers of America, which will help coordinate winter housing. "We were very nervous. Just three weeks ago, we were told there would be no money."

Maryhouse, which provides temporary shelter for women at the Loaves & Fishes homeless services complex, is reporting record numbers of people seeking services, and St. John's Shelter for Women and children consistently maintains a waiting list.

"They have been overwhelmed with people who have been sleeping in cars and on the streets, and we know it will only get worse in the coming weeks," Holderegger said.

To make up for gaps in government funding for homeless services, area faith communities are banding together for the second consecutive year to house homeless men and women in rotating houses of worship during the winter months.

That effort needs about $148,000 for transportation, food and other supplies, Holderegger said. So far, it has raised only about $23,000.

Serna and County Executive Brad Hudson said they expect other government and private agencies to pitch in to help people who are without shelter this winter.

"I encourage individuals, our business, labor and nonprofit partners, and other local governments to join the county in identifying resources to make this happen," Serna said.

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