We formed in 1987 in response Sacramento City's enactment of an anti-camping ordinance. In 1997, we began to publish Homeward Street Journal, our street newspaper, and in 2002 set up a program for distribution by homeless and nearly homeless vendors. In 2017 there were 71 distributors of Homeward Street Journal with an average monthly participation of 30 homeless and nearly homeless individuals through their distribution of Homeward, reflecting over $18,000 in sales that they were able to earn. In the early 2000's we had a River Cleanup Project, adopting a mile along the American River Parkway, and many camped while we cleaned whole areas of the land surrounding the river and parkway with support from park rangers. We are founders of Sacramento's 'Safe Ground,' now a separate organization that hosts a resident run tent communities and advocates for establishing resident run tent and tiny house communities. In 2008, we formed the Homeless Leadership Project which has continued to meet weekly since that time (now called the Homeless Action Committee or HAC). Ten to fifteen people attend these meetings every week to support and educate each other, to organize events, and plan the Homeward Street Journal content. In 2014 and 2013, we staged a three-day camp-out and arts festival for coalition building and to publicize the need for housing.
In 2008, we also brought together local civil rights lawyers and homeless plaintiffs and coordinated a successful lawsuit that exposed Sacramento's heartless and wholesale destruction of homeless property. Continuing this work, we collect incident reports, take surveys, and log in reports from homeless people to keep track of any mistreatment by law enforcement or security personnel. These reports are shared with attorneys, used to monitor violations and used in conjunction with our work with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). In 2014, we formed a coalition of groups interested in food insecurity and hunger in our region. Our first event was a successful fundraising, educational and networking event, Farm to Every Fork, that took place during Sacramento's Farm to Fork Week. This event included paying guests and guests that would not be able to afford to attend other Farm to Fork events, encouraging enlightening table conversation. Currently, we work with Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a coalition of homelessness advocacy organizations in three states, on a regional campaign on federal and local housing policy, and to decriminalize homelessness through education, advocacy, organizing and civil rights legislation for homeless people, and work together on addressing other civil and human rights problems that homeless people face. We are also members of a WRAP Sweeps Committee that includes participating organizations nationally.
During the pandemic, we continued our weekly meetings on zoom. We founded the Sacramento Services Not Sweeps Coalition that meets weekly with other homeless advocacy groups, formed in response to the continued displacement of encampments and the lack of supplies accessible to the unhoused community. We formed a Covid response team that did outreach to encampments to provide information, resources, basic needs, invite participation, connect, and provide support during law enforcement sweeps. During this time, we had to curtail our Homeward distribution program, but we co-hosted a Journalism Course in collaboration with CalMatters and the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness.
In August 2022 we convened the Sacramento Community Forum on Homelessness. It was a two-day event held at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. The event's purpose was gathering advocates and activists and unhoused individuals to educate each other on the homelessness issues we are working on and to form an action plan for future work and goals. We are planning a follow up one-day forum for early 2023.
Our office is located near downtown Sacramento within a multi-homelessness services complex. Temporarily our office is open only two days/week limited hours, but we are planning to resume regular hours and hold our weekly meetings in person (we are set up to hold hybrid meetings).
SHOC is organized on the principle that homeless individuals themselves can mobilize and help address the crisis of homelessness, and in fact, their input should be included in all aspects. In order to accomplish this goal, SHOC engages in leadership training, participates in political advocacy in public forums, publishes Homeward Street Journal (a bimonthly newspaper which spotlights issues of concern to people in poverty as well as the broader community), organizes demonstrations and community events to publicize the urgency of the situation, and litigates and campaigns for legislation on behalf of homeless and poor people. By developing homeless leadership, we work towards ending homelessness, and towards ensuring that homeless people are afforded their full legal and human rights.