Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to join formerly homeless Mather Community Campus ‘students’ as they volunteer, share at Capital Christian Center in support of Winter Sanctuary program

(Sacramento, Calif.) – Sacramento-area homeless taking advantage of the interfaith community’s collaboration with Sacramento Steps Forward and Volunteers of America to provide “Winter Sanctuary” during the capital’s coldest months will receive more than hot food and a warm place to lay their heads at Capital Christian Center Sunday evening (Jan. 30), when more than a half-dozen men and women currently enrolled in the region’s leading job-training and transitional housing program share how they escaped life on the streets, and are now successfully navigating mainstream society.

Joining the Mather Community Campus students will be Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who will also address the men and women in attendance.

The visiting students from the Volunteers of America-operated Mather Community Campus will begin their visit to this week’s Winter Sanctuary host location by joining Capital Christian Center’s volunteers in serving dinner to the more than 100 men and women who have been seeking refuge at the Rancho Cordova church. Following the meal service, Mather Community Campus students will offer their own firsthand experiences in living on the streets, and how they found new hope at “MCC.”

 Among the volunteer-speakers will be 42-year-old Lenny Branch. Branch, a Northern California native, estimates he was homeless for more than four years before finding Volunteers of America.

“We’re going to tell the men and women in the Winter Sanctuary program that they don’t have to be out there,” said Branch. “There’s a way to get their lives back on track and to get their own place and go back to school like I’m doing.”

Branch, who is studying at American River College to become a welder, said many homeless people just aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them – opportunities like Mather Community Campus, which he calls a sanctuary in its own right.

“At Mather, they showed me that you don’t have to go back to drugs or whatever,” said Branch. “This place shows you a whole new way of life – that there’s a whole new way of life to focus on.”

More than 180 single men and women, as well as 54 families are in the process of rebuilding their personal and professional lives at the 33-acre Mather Community Campus. The award-winning, two-year program – a collaborative effort between Volunteers of America, Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center and Crossroads Diversified Services Inc., is designed to put homeless back in homes and back to work.

The Winter Sanctuary program – the Volunteers of America-coordinated initiative to house the homeless at a roster of 21 rotating houses of worship – has been seeing at-capacity numbers since picking up its first guests at Loaves & Fishes.  But the program is at risk of ending months before the original March 31, 2010, closing date.

Despite generous grants from Sierra Health Foundation, Wal-Mart, the River District and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, an additional $50,000 is needed to guarantee that participating houses of worship can continue to feed and house the expected 1,000 individuals who will seek shelter this winter.

Though no small amount, church-based volunteers have enabled the Winter Sanctuary program to operate at just 20 percent of the cost of a dedicated winter “overflow” shelter. Donations now will not only keep doors open, but will ensure the continued smooth operation of meal and transportation services – services that the homeless community have embraced.

Houses of worship participating in the Winter Sanctuary program are:

  • Capital Christian Center
  • St. Paul Baptist Church
  • St. John’s Lutheran Church
  • Lutheran Church of the Master
  • First Covenant Church of Sacramento
  • St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (in partnership with Atonement Lutheran Church Community)
  • Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims Center Mosque
  • Seventh-Day Adventist Church
  • Living Stones Christian Reformed Church (in partnership with City Life Church)
  • Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
  • Trinity Life Center
  • Sun River Church
  • St. Mark’s United Methodist Church (in partnership with Living in God's Love Ministries)
  • Mars Hill Church
  • Arcade Church
  • First Baptist Church of Elk Grove
  • This Is Pentecost Ministries
  • Trinity Lutheran Church

Those interested in making a contribution toward the Winter Sanctuary program may do so online at, or by calling (916) 442-3691.

Established locally in 1911, the Greater Sacramento & Northern Nevada affiliate of Volunteers of America is one of the largest providers of social services in the region, operating more than 40 programs dedicated to ending homelessness, supporting the most vulnerable populations and transforming communities for the better.

Its ministry of service supports and empowers America’s most vulnerable groups, including at-risk youth, seniors, homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions.


Media contacts:

Michelle Purcell, Ministry Partner – Outreach, Capital Christian Center


Christie Holderegger, Vice President/Chief Development & Communications Officer

916.442.3691 (office); 916.213.4133 (cell);

Barry Wisdom, Public Relations & Marketing Officer

916.442.3691 (office); 916.821.0932 (cell);