"As a Christ follower, how can I say that and not be involved with serving the needy in our community? There are lots of very worthy causes to get behind, some local, some abroad. I happen to feel led to serve on the Elk Grove HART board. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it daunting at times? Absolutely. But, knowing that in some way we were the hands and feet of Jesus to someone who needed caring brings things into focus for me. The Bible is so full of admonishments concerning the poor it's staggering, but nowhere is it so plainly laid out as in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 31-46. This is how I choose to give a cup of cool water." — Phil Machek
The community response to the needs of Elk Grove’s homeless continues to amaze us. Recently, we put a callout for much-needed donations to restock and prepare our Meadow House transitional home for a new round of families.
Supporters of HART responded promptly with enthusiasm, and went well above our expectations. The Meadow House once again feels like a warm home thanks to donations of new dishes, kitchen supplies, warm blankets, sheet sets, fresh towels, and many other household items.
With the Meadow House fully supplied from your generosity, simple household needs will not be a distraction for these families who will be working for the new three months to become self-sufficient again. We could not carry out our mission without you!
Police tape cordoned off a large area, a young woman sat on the curb crying and several police cars did not paint a pretty picture Tuesday afternoon. I had just come from a movie about a homeless family, The Glass Castle. Shortly thereafter, a text message explained it all, one of our homeless had died.
I didn’t know Harry. I called several other homeless advocates until I found one that knew him. That young woman on the curb was his fiancé, he has a child in our school district, he was very good friends with one of our other homeless men. He was loved, he was human.
It surprised me that he had a child in one of our schools. I don’t know why, having children is common. I guess what caught me off guard is that it made him more human, a child lost his father on Tuesday, a mother her son and a heartbroken woman, her fiancé.
Harry will likely not have his obituary in the Elk Grove Citizen, or maybe even a funeral… and that breaks my heart. Was he better or less than any of us, of course not. He was just human with human failings. A human with a child, a human with people that loved and cared about him. For those people, my heart mourns as it does for anyone that has lost a loved one. As I often remind myself, I am not here on this earth to judge but to love. I’m sorry I did not know Harry and have the opportunity to show him love, but am so thankful for those that did care about him. For the police officer that was deeply saddened, for the homeless advocate that choked back the tears when I told her of his passing. I’m thankful for the beautiful people of our community that care for the homeless, that see them as humans.
Goodbye, Harry, and God bless you. You leave a gap in the hearts of those that loved you. You did not die unknown or unloved.
The Sun Sprite house is managed by Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH). A SSHH house monitor will live on-site. All renters will have regular contact with a case manager to provide support as needed.
Various home renovations are underway to prepare for occupancy. This includes installing a new fence and landscaping, air conditioning repairs, and general clean up.
Volunteers included Sheldon High School Building Trades students under the leadership of teacher Jeff Merker, plus community members and SSHH staff. A number of neighbors stopped by during the project to express appreciation for the improvements.
The Sun Sprite house is a partnership between the City of Elk Grove and Sacramento Self Help Housing (SSHH). The City initially purchased the home, then arranged with SSHH to take ownership and provide property management.
Last year during Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary, one of our guests asked me, "So what's the minimum number of people you need to have the shelter each night?" My answer? "One."
When you hope to have shelter from the cold, a hearty meal and some companionship, you don't need to worry that what's been promised will actually be there for you. Life on the streets is a daily struggle. If we can provide some respite, some sense of normalcy for even a short time, our effort is worthwhile. No matter our faith, we are called to help those in need, and I'm grateful to have an opportunity to touch a few lives with kindness. — Mark Hedlund
"The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer.
This quote hits to the core of why Elk Grove HART continues to improve the lives of those less fortunate in our community. Through our volunteers’ compassion, dedication and commitment to improve the human condition we make positive change in individual lives, one person at a time.
In 2010, John, (not real name) a 40-year-old homeless man with severe hearing loss was living in his broken-down car in Elk Grove. Donations were used to get his car operating. A HART mentor coached him on how to interview successfully. John has had a steady job for the past 6 years, pays his own rent, and no longer needs government assistance—this is why HART matters!" — Frank Lucia
Can I recommend a good read to both inspire and challenge your view of homelessness? Welcome Homeless, by Alan Graham, is just 200 pages, but it packs a punch. Mr. Graham introduces 10 homeless folks from Austin, TX who forever changed him from real estate entrepreneur to a friend of the homeless.
One quote from the book keeps resonating with me: “If you can ingrain one thing in your head, it’s this: The single greatest cause of homelessness is catastrophic loss of family.”
Without being preachy, Mr. Graham shares his journey from “clueless rich white guy,” to deeper understanding, which led to the creation of Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF). MLF is the family, and home, that many don’t have. Last year MLF opened a 27-acre community that houses 250 chronically homeless individuals. You’ll appreciate the steps, and missteps, Mr. Graham shares.
I learned of MLF from my pastor. He was so inspired that a group of us are taking a “journey of discovery” to Austin, TX on October 8-11. I’m anticipating some great new ideas to share with you so that together we can better serve the Elk Grove homeless community.
Welcome Homeless is worth the read. Look for me to ask you about the stories within. The MLF story is presented well in this 3 minute YouTube video:
"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
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