Empowering Youth to Be Champions for Change

By Ken Casparis, Sacramento County  |  2019-06-14

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - This past April, Kamryn Hall, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School, organized and hosted a town hall event centered on homelessness as her senior project for the Humanities and International Studies Program (HISP). Representatives from the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, the City of Sacramento Mayor’s office, the Steinberg Institute and Wind Youth Services made up the panel.

The goal for this town hall was to educate and help youth who care about homelessness – and those experiencing homelessness – to learn more, and to help inspire others to take action and find ways to get involved in helping the cause.

Hall’s interest in homelessness is based on her observations of those living unsheltered in Sacramento. Knowing that homelessness is a big issue that has been declared a crisis, she felt that it was important to raise her classmates’ level of awareness and to get them interested in being a part of the solution.

This event was open to C.K. McClatchy students and staff, and the panel was made up of various community organizations who are working to assist homeless communities. Hall intentionally invited direct service providers and those responsible for developing homeless programs and policy.

“I set this up just for students so that it wasn’t political; it was just about education and asking questions,” said Hall. “I wanted people to be educated on the situation, and it made for a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Eduardo Ameneyro (pictured far right), Homeless Services Division Manager for the Department of Human Assistance, provided a unique perspective on behalf of his department’s core business as the administrator of welfare entitlement programs, as well as the division leading the Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness. “Homelessness is incredibly complex and cannot be completely resolved with housing. My team's work in each of the initiatives is highlighting the role generational poverty (and poverty in general) plays in homelessness.”

Meghan Marshall, Flexible Supportive Rehousing Manager for the Department of Human Assistance, was invited to attend this event. “The concern and compassion expressed by the students for those experiencing homelessness in our community was moving and brings me great hope,” said Marshall. “Getting youth involved and engaged in social welfare issues as early as possible is an investment in our future.”

One thing that surprised Hall and her fellow students were the unexpected factors that contribute to individuals experiencing homelessness, especially with regard to homeless youth who have fled abuse and other bad situations at home.

Hall’s town hall event helped change how both students and staff think about not just individuals experiencing homelessness, but about homelessness as a whole. A classmate approached Hall in her economics class to let her know the impact this event had on her. The classmate explained that a friend of hers was experiencing homelessness and, because of what she learned from the panelists, she took her to Wind Youth Services to receive medical attention and other services.

Check out the Responding to Homelessness in the County of Sacramento webpage to learn more about the Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness.

Catrayel Wood Runs for Sacramento County Board of Supervisors

By Emerson Palmer, Catrayel Wood for Supervisor 2020  |  2019-06-13

Catrayel Wood, the 39th Honorary Mayor of Fair Oaks.

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Catrayel Wood, the 39th Honorary Mayor of Fair Oaks and a Senior Budget Analyst with the Judicial Council of California, announced today that he is running for Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, District 3.

“The time has come for a new generation to step forward, innovate, and lead Sacramento County to a better tomorrow,” Catrayel said. “I’m running for Sacramento County Board of Supervisors because the time has come for change and a new vision for our future,” Catrayel continued.

An active member of the community, Catrayel has been a member of Habitat Young Professionals (HYP) - Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, and currently serves as a board member for the Fair Oaks Chamber of Commerce, and ACE. Catrayel holds a bachelor’s degree in Politics & International Relations from the University of London, London School of Economics, and has studied economics and marketing at the University of Oxford, and Peking University, respectively.

Catrayel brings to the campaign a unique and innovative approach that combines divergent thinking, a natural appreciation for collaboration, and the courage to take risks.

“Our county government is hamstrung by inaction and slow responses to the challenges at hand. We all know what these challenges are: a lack of affordable housing, rising rents, families living paycheck to paycheck despite working full-time, and continued spikes in homelessness. We can do better. What has stopped our current elected officials from meeting these challenges is an absence of sound policies, plans, and a clear vision for our future,” Catrayel said.

Catrayel was born and raised in a blue-collar region of the Central Valley and though his parents didn’t graduate from college, they instilled in him the importance of hard work, service to one’s community, and, most importantly, that if you want to make a change, you don’t wait—you act. So, he is.

“This is going to be a process of sharing my thoughts with voters, and listening, on how we can effectively collaborate and move our county forward. We need to move beyond a time in which home affordability has hit a 10-year low; where residents can no longer afford the median home price; and where poverty rose faster in Arden Arcade than anywhere else in California. We need to move beyond a 30 percent rise in homelessness between 2015 and 2017; and we need to move beyond a time in which a homeless person dies every 3 days in Sacramento County,” Catrayel said.

“Now is the time to move beyond our past and look forward to a better tomorrow,” Catrayel continued.

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Women's Empowerment Gala Fundraiser for Formerly Homeless Women

By Kristin Thébaud, Kristin Thébaud Communications  |  2019-05-30

Women’s Empowerment graduates enjoy the 2018 Celebration of Independence Gala wearing ballgowns donated by the community. Courtesy Women

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Community members are invited to the 18th Annual Celebration of Independence Gala that benefits Women’s Empowerment, a local nonprofit job training and empowerment program for women who are homeless and their children. The event, which raises funds for the organization and honors the group’s 1,574 graduates, will take place 5:30-8:45 p.m. on June 20 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, 1209 L Street.

Guests will mingle with program graduates and enjoy a formal dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and graduate presentations.

Tickets are $150. Those who cannot attend, or wish to contribute, can sponsor graduates to attend the event. For tickets or sponsorship opportunities, call (916) 669-2307 or visit www.womens-empowerment.org.

At the event, Women’s Empowerment will announce the winner of the 2019 To Heal the World Award, created in honor of founding social social worker, Erie Shockey. The award, which was first given to Mayor Darrell Steinberg, recognizes a local hero who inspires others to engage in social change and makes the Sacramento community a better place for all.

“Joy and laughter fill the room every year at this beautiful event where donors, volunteers and community members have the chance to connect with women who were once homeless and invisible and are now wearing evening gowns and being celebrated for all they have accomplished,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment.

“This gala not only celebrates the amazing women who break the cycle of homelessness each year, it also is our largest fundraiser of the year and ensures we can continue to meet the needs of homeless women in our community as Sacramento battles housing and homeless crises. This is a chance to come together and tackle these issues in a positive way,” said Culp.

Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,574 homeless women and their 3,627 children.

Last year, 82 percent of graduates found homes and 76 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento.

To make a donation: www.womens-empowerment.org.

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Earlier this year, Governor Newsom announced that he was going to make housing his top priority, and called for 3.5 million new homes to be built in California within six years.  I believe this is a laudable top priority, and have previously written about the great need in our region for more housing. To start with, Governor Newsom wisely announced $500 million in awards to cities and counties that meet new, short-term housing goals.  I believe the enticement of these funds can propel real change, and I hope Sacramento County will win some of this money.

Unfortunately, Governor Newsom coupled this “carrot” with an extremely dangerous “stick”, in the form of withholding gas tax money from cities and counties that don’t meet the regional housing targets set by the state.  This has shaken virtually the entire state, as 97% of California cities and counties (including Sacramento County) are not hitting their housing targets.

This plan has a fundamental flaw in logic because it ties gas tax money to production goals, when counties are only accountable for planning.  We should, and do, encourage housing through the land use process, but the decision whether to build more housing comes largely from factors outside our control.  We cannot force builders to build, nor can we force financial institutions to lend the builders money.

Even when projects have been approved, lately we are seeing production slowed down because the builders cannot find enough carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. to do the work, in part because the state has seemingly abandoned vocational education.  Too few schools have a “shop class”, and too many children have been told that college was the only route to success, when in reality jobs working in the trades can often pay more than jobs that require a college education.

Beyond that, I believe it’s wrong to threaten our gas tax road funding, especially after voters went to the polls last November and voted to keep the gas tax.  I’m not sure the gas tax repeal would have failed, had voters known the funding could be taken away for something entirely out of their control.

Our roads cannot bear even a small reduction in funding.  As I wrote about earlier this year, even with the gas tax in place, the County needs an additional $15-20 million yearly just to maintain the roads at the current level, or an additional $50 million yearly to get them to a standard people would describe as “good”.  

If Governor Newsom is serious about wanting to build 3.5 million new homes in California, beyond incentives he needs to look at the high cost of construction.  It is extremely expensive for a builder in California to conform to the unique regulations contained within the California Environmental Quality Act, and the enormous California Building Code grows larger each year.  These regulations are part of the reason that a home in California is 2.4 times more expensive than a comparable home in Texas.

There are potential solutions to this housing crisis, but threatening counties like Sacramento for a problem out of our control ignores the root of the problem, and is ultimately doomed to fail.

Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me call me at 916-874-5491, or e-mail me at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Homelessness and housing instability forces families to make hard choices about the necessities of life and can make a significant impact on a family’s overall well-being. For families receiving reunification and family maintenance services through child welfare, Sacramento County is helping to address these housing needs with the Bringing Families Home housing program.

The goal of this program is to reduce the number of families experiencing homelessness, increase family reunification, and prevent foster care placements.

Bringing Families Home is a California Department of Social Services grant-funded program that began July 2017 and has already supported 87 families in need of housing services. Over the next year, the program will secure housing for a minimum of 100 Sacramento County families who are completing court-ordered services and working towards family reunification.

“Housing is a basic need and when parents are experiencing homelessness and housing instability, this need is often prioritized over the required services needed for reunification,” said Sacramento County Program Planner, Niku Mohanty-Campbell.

“Child Protective Services works to provide housing stability while also allowing parents to better engage in services and address the issues that brought them to the attention of child welfare. Bringing Families Home allows for more safe and timely reunification and can prevent future foster care placements, overall supporting better child welfare outcomes,” he stated.

To address the housing needs of Child Protective Services families, the Sacramento County Department of Child, Family and Adult Services has partnered with the County’s Department of Human Assistance along with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, and other organizations to provide families with an initial assessment, service and support to obtain housing, and short term case management once housing is located.

Families are referred to the Bringing Families Home program by their social worker. The program is voluntary, but participation in Family Reunification or family maintenance services is required for program eligibility. The program prioritizes families that are homeless, however, can serve those that are facing housing instability, which includes when a family is at imminent risk of losing their housing.

“Bringing Families Home works to address the barriers to obtaining and maintaining permanent housing for those who are homeless, at-risk of becoming homeless or are receiving Family Reunification or Family Maintenance services,” said Michelle Callejas, Sacramento County Director of Child, Family and Adult Services.

“Through this grant and partnership, we are able to help families find a house, pay up to a double deposit and provide families a rental subsidy for three months after they move in,” she added.

If your family or a family you know is receiving child welfare services and is interested in participating in the housing program, contact Sacramento County Program Planner, Niku Mohanty-Campbell or email CPSBFHHouseReferral@saccounty.net.

Bringing Families Home is one of several County programs helping families and individuals experiencing homelessness transition to permanent housing stability. Ongoing County programs include the County’s Flexible Supportive Re-Housing Program, the CalWORKS Housing Support Program as well as new programs, such as the Flexible Housing Pool (FHP), an $8 million re-housing program funded through the new State Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

Launching in May, FHP will help resolve homelessness for up to 600 households, including vulnerable seniors, those engaged with criminal justice, unsheltered individuals and families, and those staying in an emergency shelter.

For additional information on County homeless activities, visit Sacramento County’s Responding to Homelessness webpage.

 

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SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada (VOA) has launched a 40-bed transitional housing and employment services program for veterans experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County.

The program provides furnished temporary housing in individual studio apartments, meals, life skills and financial management classes, pre-employment and vocational training, employment placement assistance, substance abuse support, housing location and transportation services to single male and female veterans. This program is funded through a grant awarded to VOA from the Veterans Administration and is the only “Service Intensive Transitional Housing” program for Veterans in Sacramento County.

“We are very excited to add this invaluable program to Volunteers of America’s existing services for veterans in Sacramento County at Mather Community Campus,” says VOA Division Director, Sherman Haggerty. “This program will allow a unique group of veterans the extra time and help needed to meet their goal of achieving independent living.”

This program offers the first new transitional housing beds for homeless veterans in Sacramento County, in over three years. The housing units are conveniently located at VOA’s Mather Community Campus adjacent to VOA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families, Homeless Veteran Reintegration Program and the Veteran Service Center all located on the same campus. These housing units are also conveniently located near Sacramento’s Veterans Hospital Administration Hospital. Additional housing units are currently under construction at the Mather campus which will increase local housing inventory.

Volunteers of America Northern California and Northern Nevada provides specialized programs for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families in the Greater Sacramento area. Services include rapid re-housing, case-management and homeless prevention. A large focus is heavily placed on increasing veteran men's and women's employment possibilities through life and job skills classes. 

Founded locally in 1911, the Northern California & Northern Nevada office of Volunteers of America is one of the largest providers of social services in the region. The professional paid staff operates more than 50 programs in categories that include: crisis housing, supportive housing, employment and training services, and corrections. In fact, Volunteers of America provides shelter or housing to nearly 1,800 men, women and children every night in Northern California. Nationally, Volunteers of America helps more than 2.5 million people annually in more than 400 communities. Learn more about Volunteers of America Northern California & Northern Nevada at  www.voa-ncnn.org.

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A True Inspiration

By Paul Scholl  |  2019-02-08

Taro Arai (in snowcap) gave an inspiring message at the Chamber luncheon. We stands with his father Koki at his right, the original owner of Mikuni restaurants. Also pictured are Virginia Stone, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Jim Warrick from Carmichael Elks, and local philanthropist Barbara Safford. Photo by Ron Cassity.

CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) – The more you listen, the more you hear. And when a truly inspirational story finds you, you just have to listen.

An overflow crowd attended the recent Carmichael Chamber of Commerce luncheon on January 22, there to hear the amazing story of Mikuni family restaurants. Taro Arai, the Chief Dreaming Officer for the company, told the story of how the family grew from very humble beginnings.

His father, Koki Arai, once had a dream that he was to open a restaurant in the United States. He said “Dad, you know nothing about cooking, nothing about business, and you want to start a restaurant?” But, because of his faith and the message he was given, Koki persevered.  Coming to America with almost nothing, they opened their first restaurant in Fair Oaks on Hazel Blvd.

At one time the family received a loan from a friend and businessman in Japan. In a short time they had lost everything, but were resolved to not give up. “My father continued because he had faith in God” Taro said. “He always said we will be blessed.”

And blessed they were. Over time, they have added many new restaurants in the region and all of them successful. They have also given back a great deal to the community. Their belief is they have been so blessed and they will always be dedicated to blessing others.

If you ever get a chance to hear Taro speak of their family story be sure to attend. It is truly inspiring.

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