"At any given moment, I still have the power to say 'this is not how the story is going to end.'" I remember sitting at a table at La Bou Cafe in Elk Grove and hearing my homeless mentee confidently enunciate these words as we discussed a recent setback in her plans to gain employment and save money toward her own apartment. Despite a significant automobile repair estimate and several failing grades on her recent medical coding certification exams, she continued to remain optimistic and grateful for the help of HART volunteers. When asked why I find working with the homeless rewarding, it is stories like these that come to mind. Those of us who walk alongside our homeless brothers and sisters are impacted in many ways, both large and small. The greatest impact for me has been to be there (sometimes years later) to finally celebrate how their story really does end." — Linda Strom
"Why should we care about the homeless? For me it’s pretty simple, “there but for the grace of God go I.” Those who are homeless didn’t start out that way; there have been recurring events in their lives that have led them to this point. Too many traffic tickets. Layed off from work. A screwed up childhood. Mental Illness. Drug dependencies. On and On. I’ve been fortunate enough to slip past these tragedies and live a fairly successful life. Now I’m in a position to help those who got stuck, and it makes me happy to help. That’s why I care." — Chuck McClelland
Some days this job is discouraging. Monday was one of those days. We interviewed a family for the Meadow House and a man for the Grace House. It was hard to listen to their struggles, especially when the solutions were not clear.
Afterwards, I had lunch with a counselor who has been instrumental in the success of our program. We talked about what success looked like for the people in our houses, and what were realistic outcomes.
I loved what she said. "Often, we don't see positive results for years, but each person is changed forever because of the growth they experienced at the houses."
While we would like to see immediate, positive results, that is often not the case. Sometimes it's three giant steps forward and a couple of baby steps backwards. Other times it feels like 23 giant steps backwards, but that is simply not true.
In the Meadow House, the children have a stable environment to grow in for nine months. The parents have the opportunity to go to counseling and work through past and present issues. They are often able to overcome many of the obstacles they are facing, and are even able to experience a special Christmas.
After lunch, I returned a call to a client who had recently moved out of the Meadow House. She is doing so good and thankful for the opportunity to get back on her feet. She is setting an example for her daughters that hard work and dedication pays off. I have no doubt that those two little girls’ lives will be different as adults because of their experience with HART.
Later that day I got a call from another former client, who had not only been homeless but was severely burned in a fire and spent 10 days in the hospital. He went from transitional housing to marriage and now lives in an apartment with his wife and is very stable. He spent most of the phone call choking back tears as he told me how he had gotten to see his sister the day before for the first time in many years. He had lost contact with his family due to his actions, but now was reunited with them. He was so thankful for HART and the life changes it had given him the opportunity to make.
As I hand off the presidency to Fred Bremerman, I am confident he will not only do a great job but will take HART to higher levels. His organizational skills and forward thinking has made him a success professionally, and greatly respected with the City of Elk Grove. I admittedly don't have inspiration for what our future program looks like. But I know Fred does. That is his specialty—planning. So, hold on, and be confident that HART is in good hands.
2016-2017 HART President
HART welcomes new efforts to help address the cycles of poverty that keep individuals rooted in chronic homelessness.
Uplift Elk Grove is a comprehensive, holistic program designed to break the cycle of poverty by building well-being together: rethinking poverty, reframing solutions, and reshaping our community. Through education and intentional relationships, we can restore abundance for families and individuals and bridge the cultural and socioeconomic class lines that often divide us. One of our primary goals is to provide a framework in which people can move off public assistance and build abundant lives.
Weekly Meetings are the core of Uplift. They include shared meals, time for relationship-building, mutual accountability, goal setting, tutoring and child care and celebration of success. The series of classes cover topics such as self-awareness, assessment of resources, budgeting, resolving conflict, the role of trauma in one’s life and community change. At the end of the series, graduates are matched with allies (trained volunteers) for support to continue the journey of moving towards mutual well-being. We recognize that transition from surviving to thriving takes time; participants are asked to dedicate 18-36 months to training and relationship building.
If this sounds interesting to you, follow our Facebook Page to keep in touch as we start our first classes in the Fall of 2017. We’ll be looking for volunteers to be allies, serve food at weekly meetings, help children with homework, provide childcare, help with fundraising, provide employment or internship opportunities and any number of other supportive activities.
Trajectory is a trendy word defined as the path that is followed by a projected object under the action of a given force.
Last summer, we met Lisa living in desperation out of her car with her two little ones. It was hot and they were beyond exhausted. Exhausted from lack of sleep, fear, and the bleak prospects for the future. Mom's words said it all. What if I lose my job because I haven't showered? What if we are attacked when I finally drift off to sleep? What if my bad credit prevents me from ever finding my own place?
And the worst: What if CPS takes my little ones from me?
The odds against her seemed insurmountable. But with great relief, that proved to be false. Recently, Lisa and her two little girls moved into a precious one bedroom apartment with a pool and a grassy area right in front of their apartment. They even have a fireplace!
Last August, Lisa and her girls entered HART's Meadow House for homeless families. During their time there, Lisa worked hard to stabilize her family. With determination, she accomplished all the goals her mentor and she set up. She got a better job with benefits, saved money, worked to better her credit, found stable childcare for her girls, and went to counseling for her own peace of mind. Ten months of hard work paid off.
Yes, HART helped to stabilize Mom, but more importantly, the trajectory of those two precious girls' lives have been changed forever. They have lived through watching Mom work hard to succeed and it paid off. They will be compassionate, caring women because of the hardship they have been through. You can see it in their hearts. They will help to make our world a better place because of what they have been through.
We are so proud of Lisa, and happy for her family. The future looks so bright for them.
HART is thrilled to announce the addition of two new Board Members. Brian Franks and Debbie Pettenger are quality people that will nicely compliment our current stellar Board.
Brian is the successful co-owner of wholesale retail outlet, Shop Heroic in Elk Grove, one of three in Northern California. Brian and his wife, Natalie, are not new comers to the nonprofit world. They have been heavily involved with nonprofit organizations for the past nine years. Brian has had a heart for the homeless dating back to his high school days when he spent time experiencing life with the homeless in San Francisco. We look forward to Brian bringing his talents and business acumen to HART Board.
Debbie is not only familiar with the Elk Grove area in her professional endeavors as a successful realtor, but has also worked for many years as a parent leader in the Elk Grove school system and currently serves on the Elk Grove Food Bank Board. She has a passion for the homeless, especially homeless veterans. Debbie has dedicated her life to being a strong community leader. We look forward to Debbie bringing her dedication and passion to our HART Board.
We are so deeply appreciative of Debbie and Brian's willingness to join us in our fight to help the homeless in Elk Grove achieve their highest potential. We welcome them to our HART family.
Naturally, our hearts are moved by the thought of helping the homeless during the winter season. None of us want to think about people suffering in the cold, with no access to even basic necessities like food and shelter.
But did you know that homelessness doesn't have a favorite season? In fact, the summer months can exacerbate the struggle with homelessness because it is during this season that children are usually not in school, and reasonably-priced childcare is difficult to find. Parents can find it more challenging to keep regular hours at a job, and work to return to self-sufficiency when concerned about where children can stay during the day.
Then, there's the issue that the heat can bring. We all read about the dangers of excessive sun exposure, dehydration, and poor air quality on the hotter days. These issues can adversely affect those without shelter, because there is "no break" from them.
While our region comes together to provide cooling centers and other resources, there are ways that you as an individual can help the homeless during the summer:
These are just a few ways to make the summer months more bearable for those on the streets. Author Charles Bowden said, "Summertime is always the best of what might be." Let's help make summertime the best of what might be for those less fortunate!
HART hosts a public meeting known as our HART Solutions Meeting every other month. You may wonder, "What Can I Learn at a HART Solutions Meeting?"
In addition to learning about our programs, several partnering agencies are also at the meeting to provide resources on how to best address the issue of homelessness in our city. Representatives include Elk Grove Food Bank, Elk Grove Police Department, Sacramento Self-Help Housing, and more.
Our HART Solutions Meeting was designed to inform the public of how we can all work together to provide resolutions and assist homeless individuals to become self-sustaining once again. Our Solutions Meeting is the best place to start when you are considering how to donate your time, resources, and service. The next HART Solutions Meeting is set for Thursday, June 8, 2017 at Elk Grove City Council Chambers located at 8400 Laguna Palms Way in Elk Grove.
Please phone our office at (916) 623-5858 if you have questions about our upcoming meeting or would like to know more.
by Fred Bremerman & Ken Bennett
Who knew that 2010 would mark the beginning of a new vision to help homeless individuals in Elk Grove? That year a handful of volunteers, led by Frank Lucia and Debbie Schoeneshoefer, came together to create what eventually grew in the Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team (HART).
HART has symbiotic relationships with many agencies, ensuring each group can focus on their area of expertise. One such agency is Sacramento Self Help Housing.
As their name implies, Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH) specializes in housing. In Elk Grove, this includes:
1) Housing Counseling – Every Tuesday from 9:00 to 11:30 AM, SSHH staff explore housing options with the homeless at Elk Grove United Methodist Church. SSHH staff attend the 12-week Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary program to offer more counseling.
2) Housing Oversight – Each year 30 to 35 homeless individuals are clients in Elk Grove’s two transitional homes, Grace House and Meadow House. These homes are possible because SSHH provides an on-site house leader, as well as a Case Manager who meets regularly with the clients.
3) In-Field “Navigator” – In April 2017, SSHH hired Lee Kubiak as a Homeless Navigator to look high and low in Elk Grove for homeless individuals. Lee is experienced in helping connect individuals to resources such as ID cards and applying for benefits.
This summer SSHH will open a permanent shared housing location for very low income individuals in Elk Grove, for Elk Grove residents. The six-bedroom home will provide a room at an affordable cost for fixed-income individuals. This home would not have happened without the partnership and advocacy between SSHH and HART.
SSHH found the HART model to be so successful that it duplicated it in other local communities including Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, and most recently Carmichael. These communities now have Winter Sanctuary programs patterned after the Elk Grove HART model.
Want to learn more about programs and volunteer opportunities? Attend an upcoming HART Solutions meeting (next meeting is June 8, 2017). Visit www.SacSelfHelp.org to learn more about SSHH programs to help the homeless and people needed housing.
This past winter, as part of my graduate research project, I had the honor and privilege of meeting and getting to know a few of Elk Grove’s residents as they were having dinner and enjoying each other’s company. All told, I met and interviewed over a dozen local residents to gain a unique perspective on life that could only be viewed through their lens. At the end of each conversation with John, Linda, and Ed, I had a greater understanding and appreciation for their shortcomings. I also discovered that for Joe, Phyllis, and Brian, there was no such thing as a small victory. Success was measured day by day, hour by hour, and self preservation literally meant just that. It is difficult for many of us to truly know and grasp what it feels like to live on the fringe of our society. We see what’s on the surface, nothing more, because it is easier that way, and being self absorbed takes up much of our time. These individuals I have mentioned, and many others, all share the common experience of living without a place to call home as we know it, without shelter from the elements, without safety and security because they are homeless and suffer all the ailments that are associated with it.
I see both sides of the coin. I work for the City as a senior code enforcement officer, and respond to resident complaints of homelessness and its related issues. Most reports involve trash, encampments, shopping carts, graffiti; quality of life factors that affect property values. There is no shortage of literature and research by scholars on homelessness. It remains an unsolved problem for many cities and counties exacerbated by the lack of funding and affordable housing. More importantly, a political will is missing from the equation. If asked, people will say it is a dilemma that needs to be fixed, but few are willing to make the hard choices and sacrifices to do so. NIMBY remains pervasive.
Government has recognized homelessness as a problem and has committed resources via HUD, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and other continuums of care by local agencies and providers. (The current administration is slated to drastically reduce, if not eliminate much of this funding.) Evidence based models such as Housing First, which includes components of transitional, permanent, supportive, and shared housing programs have been implemented across the country with great success. The degree of success is tempered by the level of community support and buy in from local leaders.
For its part, the City’s efforts towards combating homelessness is increasing. It has already purchased two transitional homes operated by Sacramento Self Help Housing, plans to open two more, and hired a Navigator to do outreach with the homeless population. But much more work needs to be done and non profit groups like HART, which rely on volunteers and donations, fill a crucial void by providing important services such as the Winter Sanctuary. Also known as EG WINS, it’s a program that depends on local churches and volunteers to provide food, shelter, transportation, and safety during the cold winter months.
I won’t recite old rhetoric that everyone can make a difference if only they tried; in the age of social media, instant gratification, and opaque politicians, I will say it is long overdue for residents to ante up and kick in, to put some skin in the game. For those that don’t have the time, money, nor inclination, these folks can still perform their civic duty by voting for worthwhile, benevolent initiatives and supporting philanthropic organizations. You don’t have to be a member of HART to show that you have a heart.
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." - Maya Angelou
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