Maya Wallace & The Winter Sanctuary
By Kelly Conroy
There are over 2,500 people experiencing homelessness throughout Sacramento County. A fact that is easy to overlook if you just avoid a handful of areas downtown. But Maya Wallace, the new Director of External Affairs at Sacramento Steps Forward, isn’t ignoring the numbers. Instead, she is on a mission to raise awareness and resources for our homeless population.
With a mission “to ensure all people experiencing homelessness can obtain housing, economic stability and an enhanced quality of life,” Maya and the team at Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) are implementing innovative solutions to use funds more efficiently and to end homelessness in our region. From data-driven approaches and vulnerability-based tools, SSF is leading the charge to better match available services with people in need. And with winter rapidly approaching, shelter is an increasingly important resource, and one that SSF and Maya hope to make more available through the Winter Sanctuary.
With 31% of Sacramento’s homeless living without shelter options on any given night, the Winter Sanctuary aims to provide one of the most vulnerable populations in Sacramento with a safe, warm place to sleep. From November 24 – March 31 each year, SSF will work with over 30 partners – mostly faith communities – to feed and shelter 80-120 people per night.
As if this coordination effort and compassion wasn’t special enough, the Winter Sanctuary is the only privately funded emergency shelter in Sacramento – relying on community donations due to the consistent decrease in government monies for such programs. With a $300,000 fundraising goal, the program also pencils out to be one of the most cost-efficient shelters at only $11 per person for a night off of the cold streets of Sacramento.
Maya herself has made a personal pledge to raise $3,000 toward the overall goal. “You have to put your money where your mouth is,” she stated, “my job is fundraising and I want to increase staff and board financial support of our programs.” Maya takes her job to heart and works to connect the public (with a special emphasis on young professionals) to the all too easy to ignore reality of homelessness. Andrew Geurkink, Program Coordinator at SSF, shares Maya’s passion: “Homelessness is becoming normalized and it’s easy to be numb toward it. We want to expose the depth of this issue and elevate the conversation.”
Perhaps the most beautiful piece of this heroic mission is the opportunity for us all to help Maya and SSF end homelessness in our city. You can volunteer with one of the many service providers in our area like Loaves & Fishes, get involved with Sacramento Steps Forward programs, or simply donate. At $11 per night, it’s easy for you to help make positive changes in the lives of Sacramento’s homeless.
Photo Credit: Chantel Elder