Tuesday afternoon, the County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to use $44 million from their Mental Health Service Act funding over the next three year as a means to partner with the City of Sacramento in addressing homelessness. This partnership is a bold step forward.
Therefore, when we gathered with our fellow Sacramentans yesterday to participate in Hands Across I Street, the symbolic call to action transformed into a celebration of a new partnership. As hundreds of residents and elected officials lined the three blocks that connect the County Board of Supervisors building and City Hall, you could easily hear the chant: “One City, One County, One Plan!”
Gale, one of our volunteer photographers captured several images from the event, check them out below:
To celebrate, North C Street Stories is going to feature Mustard Seed School for the month of October. We will be gaining insight from our wonderful teachers, students, and families. And to begin, here is a short history of Mustard Seed:
Established in 1989 to help meet the needs of homeless children, Mustard Seed is a free, private school for children ages 3 to 15. They provide a safe, nurturing environment, positive learning, happy memories, survival resources of food, clothing, and shelter referrals, medical and dental screenings, immunization updates, counseling for children and their parents, and assistance entering or reentering public schools.
Mustard Seed follows the Montessori Method of education, therefore in each classroom “there is a present, future curriculum already in place: the peace curriculum. With the peace curriculum, the only rule is to respect each other, the environment, and ourselves” (Chakira-teacher at Mustard Seed).
By following the Montessori Method of education, students are able to build a strong, stable foundation for their education before they enter or reenter into public schools.
Many of Mustard Seed’s students are arriving un-enrolled from school because the places their families find to sleep are often not near a school and they only plan to stay in that location for a short period of time. Plus, sometimes a school will request an address or updated immunizations which homeless families cannot provide. This leaves many children out of the school system. Yet, in spite of their situations, the children arrive at Mustard Seed eager to learn and to be accepted.
Anywhere from fifteen to thirty-five children attend Mustard Seed each day. And the average stay is only three to four weeks. Some of the students have been out of the school system for a long time and need help going back. Therefore, a major goal for Mustard Seed is to prepare and enroll homeless children into public schools once families have found housing stability.
4500 individual children have participated in Mustard Seed since the school began in 1989.
Last week I sat down with Stacy, one of our Pre-school teachers. It is her first year teaching, but her fourth year with Mustard Seed. Stacy began her journey with Mustard Seed as the Student Resources Associate, eventually transitioning into Pre-school teacher this year. Here is a re-cap of the interview:
“Magical. Just magical”.
That is exactly how Stacy would describe Mustard Seed. And she is exactly right. The moment you walk into the courtyard, you can feel this sense that something magical is happening here. There is a feeling of comfort and love as you walk past the murals on each cottage-style classroom. You cannot visit Mustard Seed and not feel the magic that surrounds the air as children escape the stress of homelessness for the day, rebuilding their educational foundations. And through this magic, a major challenge for Stacy is accepting that every day will be unique. This is because 1) Mustard Seed follows the Montessori Method and 2) children are always transitioning back into public schools.
But, even with that challenge, Stacy believes that the best apart about working here is that she can simply come here, give herself, and love freely. The kids are eager to learn and simply seeking a place of acceptance. And Mustard Seed fosters an environment for exactly that. The simplicity of what children need to feel support is the best part about working for Mustard Seed.
Lastly, what do you wish the greater Sacramento community knew about Mustard Seed?
“I wish the greater Sacramento community understood that the families here are just like you and me. They care just as much for their kids as we do and that these kids have parents that love them”.
When Shon first came to Loaves & Fishes, he was simply looking to get a TB test. Instead, he left with a TB test, two sleeping bags, and a newfound community.
Shon’s first experience with Loaves & Fishes caused him to feel safe, secure, and loved by the staff, the volunteers, and the other guests. And this has caused him to return to Loaves & Fishes whenever his life needs it, most recently since June.
Therefore, on most days you can find Shon sitting on a bench under the new mist-ers, facing towards the entrance of Friendship Park. He arrives at Loaves & Fishes a little after 7am, but not before making a quick stop at a shelter to check-in and see where he stands on their waiting list. Each week he has moved up, closer and closer to getting a bed. And each week he provides a mountain of knowledge to all who enter Friendship Park.
Shon gains this knowledge both from his personal experiences and through his time spent in the park. Throughout the day you will find him wandering the park as he catches up with both guests and staff.
Shon is always making connections with others, learning from their knowledge and experiences before he passes that knowledge onto someone else.
When asked what advice he could offer, he simply put: “If I don’t have the information that you need, then always talk to a green hat”. And that definitely is true. Shon is the person that always has the answer, anywhere from CalFresh options to shelter requirements to the safest places to rest. He almost always has the answer. Or at least knows who to talk with to get the answer. And it is all due to his interactions within the park each day.
Lastly, I asked Shon what is his favorite part of Friendship Park and his immediate response was, “I simply like being in the park”. To him, you cannot separate out each aspect of the park and say that it stands alone. Rather, Friendship Park is a safe place because of all the programs it provides: from the washroom to the service center, it all comes together be a space of peace.
So, the next time you visit Friendship Park, make sure to say “hello” to Shon.