Opening of Carmichael’s First Winter Sanctuary

Carmichael, CA  |  Submitted by HART
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For some time, Carmichael faith communities have recognized the need to address homelessness in our community. Photo courtesy HART

Carmichael, CA (MPG) - An unprecedented partnership of Carmichael churches, nonprofits and business groups is collaborating on a “Winter Sanctuary” for the community’s homeless population.

Participating churches will host as many as 25 people every night for eight weeks, beginning New Year’s Eve. Sacramento County and nearby cities have operated shelters in the winter’s coldest months for several years. For the first time, Carmichael will have its own winter shelter under the leadership of Carmichael HART (Homeless Assistance Resource Team), a partnership of more than half of the community’s churches, the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce, the Carmichael Improvement District, the San Juan Unified School District, Sacramento Self-Help Housing, and ATLAS of Carmichael.

“For some time, Carmichael faith communities have recognized the need to address homelessness in our community. The outpouring of support for HART’s Winter Sanctuary has certainly exceeded our expectations. We’re responding to the need for emergency shelter but also committed to providing services and resources that will help people find permanent housing,” said Scott Young, President of Carmichael HART.

Other HART programs plan shelters in Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights, and Folsom. Hundreds of volunteers from Carmichael churches helped with the Citrus Heights Winter Sanctuary last winter. Many of them also participated in the Greater Sacramento Winter Sanctuary program that’s based downtown. For the past six months, Carmichael’s Christ Community Church has hosted a four-hour monthly open house offering meals, clothes, counseling and showers to local homeless people.

“Our volunteers come mainly from faith-based groups who recognize the need for shelter, clothing, food and resources like job searches, health and welfare, paperwork required for identification, and transitional housing,” said Fred Green, co-chair of Carmichael HART’s Winter Sanctuary Committee.

“Beyond meeting some immediate needs, our longtime goal is to develop some level of personal relationships with people. We want them to be comfortable with us, and to help us identify prospects among them for housing as it becomes available.”

Green continues to stay in touch with five people who participated in the Winter Sanctuary operated by Citrus Heights HART with the help of Carmichael churches last winter.

“One married couple is still in touch, and still on the street. Another friend works part-time in construction and lives in his car. Another works full-time but also lives in his car because he can’t afford housing. One man found temporary housing, was given a car, had regular work for several months, and is looking for a new job. Several people are now regularly attending church.”

Organizers project that hundreds of volunteers will participate in the Winter Sanctuary program this coming winter. The Church on Cypress will be the intake center where “guests” are processed, beginning at 5:00 p.m., then bused to a host church for an evening meal, offered donated clothing, and signed out with a cot and sleeping bag. They will be given a bag breakfast and bused back to the intake center by 6:30 a.m. the next day. They use the same sleeping bag for a week at a time.

Host churches that are committed to a week or more are St. John the Evangelist, Carmichael Presbyterian, Crossroads, Christ Community, Touchstone, and American River Community. Volunteers and meals also will come from “helping churches” including Our Lady of the Assumption, St. Michael’s Episcopal, Redeemer and Gethsemane Lutheran, and Congregation Beth Shalom. Intake center volunteers come from area churches of the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints. Carmichael HART participants also include members of Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist, Epiclesis church, Carmichael Church of God, The Orchard, veterans’ groups and private citizens.

Organizers estimate the shelter program cost at $8,500, which is higher in the first year because of initial one-time purchases like sleeping bags (assigned to individuals, laundered and swapped out each week), cots, storage racks, insurance, ongoing cleanup and storage expenses.

Several donations already have come in. Significant initial support came from the Carmichael Improvement District, a collaboration of property owners along the Fair Oaks business corridor, and from ATLAS, a nonprofit that uses its Thrift Shop on Fair Oaks Boulevard to help needy people and connect them with resources aimed at developing healthy independence.

Civic groups and business teams are welcome to become volunteers or to donate meals. Monetary donations are accepted online at (Tax ID. #82-1889336)