St. John's Shelter is the largest shelter in Sacramento County and the only one focused exclusively on homeless women and children - the fastest growing segment of the homeless population and among the most vulnerable. Since 2009, the number of homeless families in Sacramento County has increased by 47.5 percent (2013 Sacramento Homeless Street Count). Of these families, 84 percent are led by a woman. We consistently operate at maximum capacity, yet still turn away an average of 200 women and children each day. Approximately 65 percent of our clients are victims of domestic violence, and often have poor credit, rental and employment histories as a result of their abuse, with little or no chance of collecting child support. Based on our 28 years of experience and the complexity of the demographic we serve, we know our clients need more than shelter. Our Employment Readiness Program provides our clients with an opportunity to adopt the professional skills and personal habits to improve job placements and prospects. It offers the following services:
Career Education. Our Career Education and Placement Center (CEPC) counsels mothers on career paths and the steps needed to reach their goals. The CEPC offers GED preparation and testing, financial literacy, budget workshops, job readiness, and computer literacy. It also includes our in-house employment training program in which mothers prepare for on-the-job employment training.
On-the-job Employment Training. Mothers gain 600 to 1,200 hours of on-the-job employment training in at least four positions at one of our social enterprises - Plates Café and Catering, Plates2go, and First Steps Child Development Center. Case managers provide mothers with training based on need, skills and likelihood of success. They learn responsibility, accountability and teamwork, readying them for jobs in the culinary, service and hospitality fields.
Mental Health Services. National Center on Family Homelessness research shows more than half of homeless mothers experience at least one major depressive episode since becoming homeless. Many have post-traumatic stress disorder and are addicted to drugs. Without mental stabilization, maintaining employment is not possible. Our Department of Integrated Health Services offers mental health services including case management, individual and family therapy, crisis intervention and addiction rehabilitation. Case managers, under the instruction of our licensed staff psychologist, develop and follow individualized action plans that outline the services, resources and instruction mothers will receive prior to and during employment training program. Action plans are designed to guide clients to self-sufficiency.
Supportive services. St. John's Shelter provides mothers housing, transportation, and a stable environment for their children, with the goal of ending the multigenerational cycle of poverty and dependence. All children at St. John's must be enrolled in school and maintain consistent attendance - a significant accomplishment given that 85 percent of homeless children regularly are absent from school, and often repeat grades or drop out as a result. When their children are cared for and barriers to employment are removed, mothers can fully commit to Employment Readiness.
On a national level, we have not found a program similar to our Employment Readiness Program that has the ability to truly transition homeless women with children from dependence to independence. It costs us $35,000 to help a family become self-sufficient and takes 18 months. That is half the cost the County incurs to keep a family in the welfare system for one year. Our comprehensive Employment Readiness Program is an innovative approach to homeless services that is successful, cost effective and replicable.