“One of the greatest challenges was the sense of being cast aside. Being a second-class citizen. Not being good enough. Being that homeless girl. If you had a backpack and bike you were immediately classified as homeless and were treated as such by everyone.”
Sarah became homeless and struggled to escape the cycle because "our community's public protections and social programs failed." Luckily, her journey ends in housing and working within the same system that let her down, to be a beacon for good to those on the street.
10 years ago, over the course of 120 hours, Sarah’s mother died and their landlord chose to sell the property. Sarah had to bury her mother and move out of her long-time home in less than a week. Sarah was her mother’s IHSS (In-Home Support Services) worker, so, when she passed, Sarah had to collect unemployment. Unfortunately, unemployment does not cover the cost of rent, a security deposit, and other move-in expenses. Her only option was to move in with a relative, who promptly dropped her off at a homeless shelter on their way to Costco.
After a few months of couch surfing and living on the street, Sarah inherited her mother's housing choice voucher, formerly known as Section 8. Briefly, she moved into her own apartment. After a few months, Sarah’s new landlord wrongfully attempted to collect a rental payment after receiving the full rental payment from the voucher program. Disgruntled, the landlord reported Sarah for squatting and had the authorities remove her from the property. Unjustly, this was non-negotiable. Sarah had 5 minutes to gather her things and leave to the street. Everything left was taken to the dump by the authorities.
This began Sarah’s 5-year stint of homelessness.
After years of wandering and just getting by, Sarah began working with the Sacramento Self-Help Housing Homeless Outreach Navigator. Outreach Navigators work as a resource for those on the street, helping people like Sarah get on track to secure permanent housing through navigating the housing and social program inventories of the region. When forced to leave her home, she lost important documentation that the navigator was now working to reclaim. Sarah slept in a tent while waiting for her items to be processed. “I was on the street waiting. It was absolute misery. I experienced some messed up stuff.”
One morning, Sarah woke up to a text. The navigator’s connections and her patience paid off. She was moving into her own place at Quinn Cottages in Sacramento.
This was one of Sarah’s first messages to the navigator after being housed: “Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see me. I’ll be in the shower turning into a prune. And I’m fine with that.”
Once settled, Sarah posted a donation drive on Next Door to collect sleeping bags for the homeless. It was almost winter. The response was incredible. At one point, “Hugs for the Homeless,” sold out the entire stock of sleeping bags on Amazon.com. This work was noticed by HOPE Cooperative, a fellow 501(c)3 organization in the region, who offered Sarah a job as a Homeless Outreach Navigator.
“I’ve come a long way from eating Popeyes Chicken right out of the dumpster. Now I have a brand new car and my own place. I have a life now. I have dreams, goals, and aspirations. And I’m making it happen. I’ve slept in parks, in cemeteries, I’ve slept in tents. You name it, I have been there. I’ve come a long way. Now I’m really glad to be giving back to my community.”