Sacramento Homeless Fight Shifts Money Away From Women’s Shelter

SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) — The fight to end homelessness around Sacramento County is threatening a local women’s homeless shelter.

County officials announced they would cut off funding to St. John’s Program For Real Change in September. That funding is now going to Volunteers of America.

County officials say that’s because VOA doesn’t have restrictions like St. John’s, and serves men.

“When I came here I had a CPS case, my children were taken away from me, I was homeless,” said Starr Smith, who began receiving services at St. John’s in February.

Smith has been living at St. John’s for the past nine months and says it’s changed her life.

“Without St. John’s, I wouldn’t have gotten my children back,” Smith said.

An addict for almost two decades who was also homeless, Smith is celebrating three years of being drug-free and now, reunited with her two sons.

St. John’s loss of county funding is something Smith says she doesn’t want to think about.

“I don’t know what I would do, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go, I just couldn’t fathom it,” Smith emotionally responded.

Sacramento County officials decided to cut funding from St. John’s in October after supporting the program for 15 years. Instead, they’ve handed the $720,000 contract to Volunteers of America.

“The raters looked at the construct of the families and St. John’s doesn’t allow for males in their program; it’s not their model,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli.

Nottoli says the shelter run by VOA also serves men, and ultimately would help more people in the homeless community.

“That’s a huge hole in the budget,” replied Chet Hewitt, St. John’s Chairman.

The loss of county funding means St. John’s now has to find about $60,000 a month in new funding.

“The $720,000 makes a difference for the 57 individuals that those dollars pay for each year,” Hewitt said.

Just last month, St. John’s opened a new facility with 90 beds, expanding its capacity to 270 beds total.

The loss isn’t just threatening to slash dozens of beds. Hewitt says they could lose their entire facility.

For now, Hewitt says he’s relying on private donors to keep the program up and running.

“We’re gonna hope for a positive outcome,” Hewitt said.

The Board of Supervisors says it will introduce a new proposal for homeless programs next month.

If St. John’s is awarded the $540,000 proposal, funding won’t begin until Spring of 2018.

CEO of St. John’s has started a petition to help support the program.

More from Angela Musallam
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