Vincent Dimarco 4, left, is huged by his mother Starr Smith at Saint John's Program for Real Change in Sacramento in November 2017. Saint John's is in financial trouble amidst the county's shuffling of its funding priorities. Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com
Vincent Dimarco 4, left, is huged by his mother Starr Smith at Saint John's Program for Real Change in Sacramento in November 2017. Saint John's is in financial trouble amidst the county's shuffling of its funding priorities. Randall Benton rbenton@sacbee.com

Soapbox

A plea for clean and sober housing for mothers and their children

By Heather Fargo And Roger Niello

Special to The Bee

December 07, 2017 05:00 PM

Drug abuse, lack of education, unstable home environments and more can lead to homelessness.

But for the women who wind up on the streets, there’s often the additional element of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Worse, their children are almost always in harm’s way as well.

 
Opinion

It takes a lot of hard work to sort out one’s life when starting over. This becomes all the more challenging with an abuser in the background and a child to care for. That’s why there must be shelter and safety for homeless moms and their children.

As homelessness expands beyond the center-city, residents are demanding that social workers keep them off the street. But if we simply get homeless people off the streets without providing comprehensive services, many of these men, women and children will wind up back on the pavement and in doorways of homes and businesses.

Homeless women, children and teens ought to be our highest priority. Safe and sober environments are especially critical for children and their mothers. Such facilities provide stability for the youngest homeless people who are the most vulnerable, and for their mothers.

Centralized and comprehensive services do more than simplify mothers’ lives. They help them address basic life needs without the burden of seeking childcare as they try to regain momentum. The ability to complete a GED or gain new skills without fear of abuse, harassment or braving the elements with kids in tow isn’t too much to ask.

Every segment of the homeless population is unique. We have compassion for the veterans, emancipated foster youth, people with mental illness, drug addicts and alcoholics. Each deserves care, treatment and shelter.

But children, the most vulnerable of all, must be placed in environments where they are safe. Any approach to homelessness must engage partners who can keep that promise. We support Saint John’s Program for Real Change, which focuses exclusively on clear and sober living for mothers and their children. We urge Sacramento County to help fund Saint John’s.

Heather Fargo is former mayor of Sacramento, h-fargo@comcast.net. Roger Niello is a former member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and California Assembly, rwniello@niello.com.