Mustard Seed School Makes Plea for Emergency Help for Homeless Families

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SACRAMENTO -- According to the latest homeless count in Sacramento County, 2,659 people experience homelessness on any given night.

The count's done every two years and between 2013 and 2015 it shows a 13 percent decline in the number of persons in homeless families, but for advocates who teach the kids in those families, they say they've only seen numbers grow.

Back in 2013, administrators at Mustard Seed School said they had 15 to 35 kids.

Now almost 60 are enrolled, and they've only been able to get two families into housing since the school year started.

"Who's gonna help four kids and a father and a mother?  Nobody. You have to be split up to get help and be single. People don't want two-parent families to get help, you have to be single to get help," said Doneshia Kelly.

At least that's how it feels to her.

The places in Sacramento County designed to help her twin girls, their two big brothers, her and their father amount to closed doors because there's so many other families like them in need, there's just no room.

It means Kelly, a self-described geek, who spent her entire childhood in foster care and built a family with her high school sweetheart, had to split from her kids.

She sent them to a place where they could stay with dad while she's living out of what was her lifeline to work -- until it broke down.

"I do security, ready responses, but it's on-call jobs, and you have to go out of town to work there. It's hard," she said, looking across the street at her disabled Buick.

It's families like Kelly's that Sacramento's Mustard Seed School serves every day, with 58 homeless students enrolled right now.

Directors intend to make a formal plea to the city and the county for more family shelter space -- space for the kids who never clamor to get away from the classroom come Friday because it's their only safe place to be.

The first question families face is where they're living.

"Her mom said, behind a dumpster, so, but with her 8th-grader, and this little girl is scared," said school director Casey Knittel.

"And ones in cars, imagine being in your car with three children, trying to find a place where you won't be arrested," said advocacy director for Loaves & Fishes Joan Burke.

Sacramento Steps Forward is the agency directing the city's homeless efforts.

It's website highlights a continuum of care strategic action plan that sets a 2020 goal for the end to family homelessness in the area.

Burke serves on one of the group's boards.

"What these families need of course is a simple home of their own, but they need a place of safety 'till they can move into that home. That's the gap we're talking about," she said.

Burke says in no way are the shelters villains.

Volunteers of America and Next Move run the closest operations to emergency housing.

She believes they just need more money to expand and do things like handle intake on more than one day a week.

If it's a Tuesday night, there's no place to call to even apply for help that night as a family.

"Correct," said Burke.

The shelters have orientation and intake on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

Thursday is when Mustard Seed staff plan to make their plea to the county.

County staff is working on a request from FOX40 regarding information about the occupancy rates and funding for emergency family housing.