Elk Grove Citizen
By Lance Armstrong Citizen Staff Writer
The Elk Grove Winter Sanctuary (EG WINS), a program dedicated to providing temporary, emergency shelter for Elk Grove's homeless during the coldest time of each year, has returned for its fourth year. This year, the program runs through March 4.
A joint effort with local churches, EG WINS is a 12-week program of the Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team (Elk Grove HART).
Fred Bremerman, a board member of Elk Grove HART and a former management analyst for the Cosumnes Community Service District, described the idea behind the founding of the shelter, which serves homeless individuals who are at least 18 years old.
"Four years ago, we realized there were homeless people in Elk Grove that did not have a place to be safe (overnight) and get a warm meal," he said. "We could serve them downtown, but most people are afraid of that and they also don't have transportation. So, we figured we had better do something to serve those (homeless) in our community."
Bremerman added that volunteers of the Elk Grove Food Bank initiated the efforts of beginning the shelter.
Each year, the program functions through the assistance of about $4,000 in donations that are raised through churches and individuals in the community.
Bremerman said that the shelter is also aided by many volunteers, who feel the satisfaction of serving others.
"This is mentoring, this is friendship, this is helping them make a connection with real people," he said. "And that's good for them and it's good for our volunteers. There's a lot of satisfaction in serving others and this is one way to do that."
As part of Elk Grove HART, the Winter Sanctuary also introduces its guests to housing and other resources.
Through ELK Grove HART, two transitional homes exist in Elk Grove. They are Grace House for individuals and Meadow House for families. Guests are housed at no cost for six to nine months while they seek employment, learn budgeting skills, receive mentoring, and stabilize their lives.
The homes of this program were purchased by the city of Elk Grove, and are operated by Self Help Housing. Elk Grove HART provides the operating costs for both homes.
The Winter Sanctuary is currently serving six to nine guests nightly.
Bremerman noted that based on past experience, these numbers are likely to increase this year. If necessary, as many as 20 guests can be accommodated through the program each night.
Guests check in at the Elk Grove United Methodist Church at 8986 Elk Grove Blvd. on a nightly basis from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
These guests are transported from that church to another church, which provides a warm meal and overnight accommodations in a safe environment away from the cold temperature of the winter night.
Altogether, 10 local churches are participating in the program. Each of those churches dedicates one to two weeks for housing and feeding homeless guests.
Bremerman noted that the warm environment of the currently assisting church is helping several guests overcome common colds.
"We have a number of guests who are working through winter colds right now, and it's a lot easier to get over a cold when you're sleeping indoors than it is sleeping outdoors or in your car," he said. "In our program, we also have cold medication.
"A lot of times people can't afford those. Sometimes it's the little things in life: a good meal, a warm place to rest your head, a cough medication. Those things are important."
Bremerman added that EG WINS offers its guests more than a meal, a place to stay and over-the-counter medication.
"We also give them something else that is even more important, and that's self respect," he said. "We love them unconditionally, and in doing that we help them remain human. Here, they get a chance to communicate with people and they're inside and feeling normal. It's a start on the road to recovery."
Those who are interested in supporting the Winter Sanctuary can make a monetary donation through the website, ElkGroveHART.org, or by calling (916) 623-5858.
EG WINS is also holding its "Flapjack Fundraiser" on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 8 to 10 a.m. at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 8701 Elk Grove-Florin Road. Tickets are $10 each or free for children 2 and younger, and are available by calling (916) 689-7300.