Susan is the reason I became an advocate for the homeless in Elk Grove. She was the very first homeless person I held a conversation with which she ended by saying, “You know God created us all equal.” I started to spend time with her as much out of curiosity as compassion—curious how a bright, former teacher could get to this point, living in her run-down car. Over time it became clear. Her son had been murdered and she had never recovered from the trauma.
We walked through some crazy times together. She even won a car! She taught me many things. One of the most important was that she was an adult and wanted to be treated with respect and be loved just like the rest of us.
I know God put Susan in my life to drive home the point that we are in fact all created equal. When the housing crisis hit Elk Grove and our homeless population grew, I knew she had been the best teacher I had ever had, teaching me so eloquently how to truly care for and about the homeless.
The weather was perfect. Not too hot, with a light breeze rustling the autumn leaves.
Guests were immediately offered a tour of the new home, and then invited to feast on hearty hamburgers, hotdogs, savory potato salad, and freshly baked cookies. The conversation was friendly and warm as the “Welcome to the Neighborhood” BBQ kicked off. But this was a different kind of welcome celebration.
Instead of the neighborhood throwing a welcome party for those that would be living in this new house, the house instead hosted a BBQ for those in the neighborhood and beyond. Through the efforts of Elk Grove HART, the City of Elk Grove, and Sacramento Self-Help Housing, an affordable housing option has now been made available in the form of what is known as permanent, shared residence. Tenants that might not financially qualify for traditional housing options may move into what is known as the Sun Sprite home, and rent for as long as they wish. A house monitor, appointed by Sacramento Self-Help Housing, will also reside in the home.
This BBQ was held at the home to welcome the neighborhood to tour this affordable housing option, get questions answered, and dispel any preconceived notions of “group home” fears. In attendance were 26 guests, which included four neighborhood families in the area, many HART and Winter Sanctuary volunteers, City of Elk Grove staff, and representatives from both Mayor Steve Ly’s office and the Elk Grove Citizen.
The response to this affordable housing option was overwhelmingly positive. Compliments on the house’s interior design and decoration were heard throughout the evening, and Sun Sprite’s house monitor provided friendly and hospitable hosting. In addition to mastering the grill, the staff of Sacramento Self-Help Housing were very welcoming to those attending, and friendly social chatter was lively among those attending. By inviting the public to this event, it provided the opportunity for a glimpse into just one of the many creative solutions for our area’s housing shortage and the financial challenges of those who have experienced homelessness.
"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
We are a 501c(3) non-profit organization;
100% of donations go directly toward providing services.
Tax ID# 46-4162394