Homeless Advocates Press County for More Emergency Shelter Beds

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SACRAMENTO -- Homeless advocates are pressuring Sacramento County to increase funding for emergency shelter beds.

Almost half of the students at Mustard Seed Emergency School for Homeless children are living without a roof over their heads.

Latasha Woods' 8-year-old daughter Azjah has been attending Mustard Seed since June, when they first became homeless.

"When I drop her off here, she's happy. There's a few of the staff she has really connected with. Really happy. Really good to her," Woods said.

But every day at 2:30 p.m., school is out, and that is when her daily struggle really begins.

"At night time, that's when it gets scary. At least during the day time, we're off the streets. She can have fun. Be a little kid, while I go handle my business," Woods said.

On any given day, the school has had about 15-30 students. But just in the last year, those numbers more than doubled. In September, the school reached record enrollment-- 66 students total, 40 percent of them living outside.

"Parents struggle just to keep them safe at night, find a safe place to park. Or worse, they just have to find a spot outside. I just think that is completely unacceptable. It's too scary for the kids to have to sleep like that," Mustard Seed School Director, Casey Knittel said.

Homeless shelters are at maximum capacity and many people, including mothers with infants are being turned away.

For the last two weeks, the school has been pressuring the county to fund more emergency shelter beds to accommodate children sleeping without any shelter.

"We don't accept government funding. We're asking the county to do it. So it's up to them to determine where this shelter could be provided and what the cost would be," Joan Burke of Loaves and Fishes homeless shelter said.

But the county said it is not that easy.

Their funding comes mostly from the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Last year, Sacramento County recorded about 2,700 homeless, or 280 families.
The county claims it has 1700 beds and already hands out 11,000 housing vouchers a year.

Their focus now is to prepare for emergency shelters for the cold winter months.

Woods is now using a voucher to temporarily stay in a motel.

But when that runs out, she said she will have to go back to the streets.

"That's where it's kind of hard. Really hard. Not kind of but really," Woods said.

"We want the Sacramento community to know what's happening. Because obviously no one wants children outside. They're are young kids. We serve kids who are 3-15 so preschool to 8th grade. that's who we see at our school. But I know there are even younger children who are living outside as well," Knittel said.