A weeklong series of events featuring an on-demand movie screening and a panel discussion with local leaders culminated in SHELTER, Inc. reaching a fundraising goal of $110,000. This triggered a matching donation from several generous supporters that will enable the organization to continue providing critical services in Contra Costa, Solano, and Sacramento counties.
More than 300 people signed up to view “The Invisible Class,” a 90-minute film directed by Josh Hayes that sheds light on how we got to crisis levels of homelessness in America, and the impact of policies and decision making from the federal to the local level.
Those who registered for the screening were invited to a panel discussion led by SHELTER, Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Eckstrom, who stressed some of the bigger messages shared by the film.
“The biggest drivers of homelessness are lack of income and the shortage of housing stock,” he said. “In California, we’re about three million units of housing short, and California also has 27% of the nation’s homeless.”
In addition to Eckstrom, top left, the panel also featured BARHII Executive Director Melissa Jones, Fairfield City Councilmember Chuck Timm, and Fairfield Homeless Services Manager Dawn LaBar. Each panelist agreed that the root causes of homelessness must be addressed by offering a wide range of services designed to solve problems across the spectrum.
“You can’t just put a roof over someone’s head and walk away,” LaBar said. “We have to tackle the root of why they got where they were, if we’re going to permanently address it. It’s the programmatic change that really makes a difference, and we need that to continue.”
“One of the biggest things we need to do is stop the new homeless people from becoming homeless,” Councilmember Timm added, noting that foster children are often released from the system at age 18. “A lot of them have jobs or are going to school, but at 18, they’re kicked out of whatever home they have. We’re graduating a new class of homeless people.”
Jones, meanwhile, took time to explain the financial benefits of offering these programs to homeless people, as opposed to incarcerating them.
“Health care, law enforcement, and incarceration systems are very expensive, much more expensive than the wraparound services and housing support provided by SHELTER, Inc.,” she said. “There is a real financial incentive for local governments to figure out strategies for those who keep returning to homelessness. Program innovations have shown that you can save a lot of money if you give people in need those wraparound services and supports.”
Eckstrom concluded the hour-long discussion by extending an invitation to SHELTER, Inc.’s Day of Giving, which took place on Friday, June 25. Support from the community helped the organization match a $110,000 gift offered by The Gemmer Family Fund, Michael and Mimi Howard, and anonymous donors. These generous donations will go directly to funding programs supporting homeless and at-risk families and individuals in Contra Costa, Solano, and Sacramento counties.
“The success of our participants can be credited to the generous support of our funding partners and donors,” said Director of Development Julie Clemens. “Whether contributions come from those who give a fixed amount on a monthly basis, or large once-in-a-lifetime gift, the act of giving to SHELTER, Inc. impacts lives daily.”