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Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee fights for the rights of the unhoused

Work of SDOP partner prompts local authorities to step up services

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC) produces a newspaper called the Homeward Street Journal and fights for the rights of people living outdoors. It also works on other issues, such as hunger, tenants’ rights and voting rights. (Photo courtesy of SHOC)

LOUISVILLE — From opposing potentially harmful ordinances to distributing a street newspaper, the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC) keeps issues that affect its constituents in the forefront so that living conditions can be improved.

“A lot of our work focuses on those living outdoors in encampments and along the river parkway, but we also advocate for tenants’ rights, housing, those being released from incarceration, those experiencing hunger, voters’ rights and various other social justice issues our constituency and/or coalition partners experience,” SHOC Executive Director Paula Lomazzi said.

The organization formally incorporated in 2016 after merging with the Sacramento Housing Alliance but has been active in the community since the 1980s.

“We formed originally to address a new city camping ordinance, which we were successful in overturning,” Lomazzi said. “The city created another anti-camping ordinance later, which we continued to work against. In 1997, we founded our street newspaper, ‘Homeward Street Journal,’ which has a vendor program where homeless and nearly homeless distributors can sell the paper in public places.”

Today, SHOC’s work includes challenging efforts to criminalize homelessness and maintaining relationships with supportive organizations, such as Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Over the years, the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People has been instrumental in strengthening SHOC by providing funding and helping it to establish a good fiscal control policy. SDOP’s work is made possible by your gifts to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering, which is often given on Palm Sunday or Easter.

“SDOP has been so helpful in connecting us to local Presbyterian groups and leaders,” Lomazzi said. “We have become more collaborative.”

SHOC challenges efforts to criminalize homelessness and maintains relationships with supportive organizations. (Photo courtesy of SHOC)

During the pandemic, SHOC played a key role in helping the unhoused to survive while many were relegated to living outdoors.

“We performed outreach to encampments, providing survival supplies and equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents, hygiene and PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies, emergency motel stays and food,” Lomazzi said. “We also distributed water provided to us by the county. Outreach often included accompanying medical professionals” who were giving vaccinations and performing other medical assessments and distributing information about Covid.

While providing outreach assistance, SHOC was able to educate people about its work and pick up on issues that needed to be addressed during a time when the organization’s weekly in-person meetings were suspended and Zoom meetings were difficult for unhoused people to catch.

The Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee is one of the groups featured in this year’s SDOP Sunday Resource and Yearbook. SDOP Sunday is March 12.

“We formed the Sacramento Services Not Sweeps Coalition in response to the exclusion and neglect of those that remained living outdoors,” Lomazzi said. “Through our work and advocacy, the city and county have stepped up their services and have come to adopt new policies to recognize the needs of those living outdoors.”

This story is part of the SDOP Sunday Resource and Yearbook, an annual guide to the work of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. It is published in advance of SDOP Sunday, which will be celebrated in Presbyterian churches across the United States on March 12. Click here to learn more about SDOP and SDOP Sunday as well as a survey to provide feedback on the resource.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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