Mather Community Campus: A Homelessness Solution

VOA's Mather Community Campus is in danger

Volunteers of America (VOA) is facing a serious loss of funding that will impact the region’s most successful program to reduce homelessness: Mather Community Campus. This funding loss will force VOA to cease critical components of the Mather program model which will significantly affect the program’s ability to help clients get off the streets and back on their feet:

  • Loss of funding will strike a fatal blow to Mather’s Community Dining Hall/Culinary Training Kitchen.
    The Community Dining Hall will close - clients will no longer receive 3 hot meals daily. The Culinary Training Kitchen will close - clients will no longer receive valuable job training to help prepare them for employment once they leave the shelter.
  • Mather will have to turn away 90 new clients, year after year – that’s 90 beds that will go unused each year. That’s 90 people who are on the streets now, ready for change, but will have nowhere to go.

We can’t afford to let this program die. 
Not only is it the right thing to do – it is also the most cost-effective solution to reducing homelessness in Sacramento. Research shows programs that provide housing with supportive services that address and treat other factors that contribute to homelessness are most successful. The City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento combined spend roughly $59.6 million a year to combat homelessness. A coordinated approach such as the Mather Community Campus transitional housing program can cut government costs for the chronically homeless by up to 50%.

Fully funded = full potential. That’s the message we need to share.

What can I do to help?

  1. Contact your local elected officials to let them know it is important to invest in a solution to homelessness that works.
    Click here to send an email to your local representatives. Click here for a downloadable template to use. Or text "Mather" to 42886.
  2. Listen to the stories of program alumni whose lives are forever changed because of Mather. Click here to watch Mather alumni speak about being homeless, how they found Mather, and the impact Mather has made on their lives. Each client tells a different story, yet their message is the same: Mather works.
  3. Tour Mather Community Campus. Let us show you why it’s so important to keep funding for transitional housing program models like Mather intact. Contact VOA's Senior Development Officer, Melissa Chin to schedule a tour.
  4. Tell someone. Share Mather’s story with others. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to share our struggles AND our successes with your networks. When people better understand how Mather moves individuals from crisis to stability, the more likely they are to support transitional housing programs, like Mather, as a means to efficiently and effectively reduce the homelessness crisis facing our region.
  5. Help fund our efforts to keep Mather intact. Donate Now.

Additional Mather Videos and Resources

What is Mather Community Campus?

In 1993, the Federal Government identified the Mather Air Force Base for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). The McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 offered community-based and non-profit organizations the opportunity to acquire base property and assets for homeless services. In 1993, Sacramento requested and received control of 33 acres of the Mather Air Force base to develop a transitional housing program for families and single homeless individuals. This marked the birth of VOA’s Mather Community Campus.

Since 1993, Volunteers of America has operated a successful transitional housing program with a multitude of support services for individuals transitioning out of homelessness. Each year an average of 150 households graduate the program, and leave homelessness with employment and market-rate housing. Lovingly known as ‘Mather,’ this 12-month employment and rehabilitative transitional housing program currently houses approximately 363 men, women, and children in single or family unit apartments for approximately 9-12 months. While stably housed, they have access to a multitude of support services that help them create their own path out of homelessness: pre-employment and vocational training, alcohol and drug recovery, credit and identity repair, case management, housing and job placement assistance – all in a therapeutic community of support from staff and fellow residents.

What is transitional housing and how does it differ from Shelter Programs?

Transitional housing is supportive, temporary accommodation that is meant to bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing by offering structure, support, life skills, education, etc. It is meant to provide a safe environment where residents can overcome trauma, begin to address the issues that led to homelessness or kept them homeless, and begin to rebuild their support network. Transitional housing differs from shelter programs in three key areas: 

1. Purpose.
The purpose of shelters is to provide individuals experiencing homelessness with immediate shelter, while transitional housing programs provide longer-term housing with supportive services like job training, recovery services, counseling, and more.

2. Length of stay.
The length of stay for shelters is short term, a few days to a few months, while clients usually stay in transitional housing for 9 to 24 months and are offered follow-up services upon leaving the program.

3. Services provided.
Shelters respond to a person’s immediate crisis; transitional housing programs offer safety, economic, personal, family, and housing support.

Why is Mather at risk?

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shifted much of its funding from programs like Mather to those that have embraced another model, called Housing First, that HUD says is more efficient and effective. Housing First, unlike transitional housing, emphasizes getting a person or family out of a shelter and into an apartment as soon as possible, regardless of their willingness to get a permanent job, seek help with addiction and trauma, or develop other skills that were requirements for entry into transitional housing.

A number of studies support the agency's shift to Housing First solutions on the principle that homeless people cannot deal with their joblessness, lack of work skills or education, or inability to handle the day-to-day functions of running a household if they don't have a permanent roof over their heads. Volunteers of America maintains that, while Housing First is a viable option for some, for many people, maintaining a roof over their heads is impossible without the tools and support systems built through a transitional housing approach.

What is the impact of this funding loss to Mather?

Because of this change in federal policy, Volunteers of America is now facing a permanent loss in funding that is forcing VOA to scale back the scope of services offered at Mather – a detrimental blow to its potential for success. This loss will force VOA to cease critical components of the Mather program model which not only affect the program’s ability to succeed, but also significantly reduce the number of people the program will be able to serve.

    What does this mean for me? Why should I care?

    Transitional housing models save taxpayers money. Research shows that providing housing without services isn’t as effective as programs that not only address shelter but other factors that contribute to homelessness. This approach can cut government costs for the chronically homeless by up to 50%.

    The City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento combined spend roughly $59.6 million a year to combat homelessness. It can cost between $45,000 and $160,000 a year to manage a single homeless individual as they migrate in and out of emergency rooms, jail, parks, and trails, public property, with no return on investment. By comparison, VOA’s Mather Community campus is a cost-effective program, costing approximately $25,000 to transition one person out of homelessness forever.

    We should continue to invest in what works. Each year an average of 150 people like Beverly graduate the program, and leave homelessness with employment and market-rate housing. By focusing our resources and attention on solutions that work, together we can build a future in which everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the strength, productivity, and well-being of our region.