It’s an event that takes its name from Marie Antoinette’s reputed utterance. On July 14, Sacramento Self-Help Housing will hold its 13th annual “Let Them Eat Cake” fundraiser. Held each year on or near Bastille Day, it includes cake contests, wine tastings, music, art, auctions and food prepared by local chefs. Proceeds support the organization’s efforts to help people find safe and stable housing in Sacramento. The Bee spoke with John Foley, SSHH’s executive director, about the long-running fundraiser, which he described as a celebration of community efforts to solve the city’s housing issues.
Q: How did this event’s name come about?
A: It goes back to the French Revolution’s rallying cry – “Let them eat cake” – which was attributed to the queen. The idea was that there was this disregard for the needs of the poor, hungry and homeless. ... Our experience has been that often the needs of homeless folks are not a very high priority for politicians and rich folks. So it’s a little bit in their face and a bit of a challenge.
Q: And cake is a big part of the event?
A: There’s the fun of (a) cake contest. People build a mini Bastille with a guillotine. Other people do other elaborate cakes. It’s fun to see that and have a good time.
Q: The fundraiser is in its 13th year. What changes have you seen in that time in terms of Sacramento’s hungry and homeless populations?
A: Folks are really suffering. Plenty of people are suffering still. But there’s more community willingness to notice that there are a lot of poor, homeless folks in the Sacramento region and to take some responsibility for that. In Elk Grove over the last few years they’ve opened a transitional house, expanded the work of the food bank, opened the second house for (homeless) families. There’s talk about funding transitional houses in Rancho Cordova and Citrus Heights. The city of Sacramento has stepped up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. … There are good things happening here in Sacramento.
Q: What would you like to see change in the next five years to improve the lives of homeless people?
A: The biggest problem that folks have is the gap between their (expenses and) their ability to raise money though benefits or unemployment. ... The rental market has gotten tighter, rents have gone up. But incomes haven’t gone up sufficiently. If more people could get full-time employment instead of part-time or day labor, they could have enough money to consistently pay rent.
Q: Can you talk more about how hunger affects homeless people?
A: A lot of homeless and very poor people have a hard time eating well. Their health is really compromised by that. If people (can live) inside someplace with a fridge and a place to cook … they can purchase better-quality food and improve their health outcomes. It’s unfortunate in this country how much people are forced to rely on food banks. There’s not a decent grocery store near their home or they don’t have enough resources to make it through the month. Food banks have trouble providing appropriate food for someone who’s camping out or living on the streets. That “farm to fork” ideology – we think about that in terms of housing. We need housing and services for farmworkers. And for dishwashers – the “fork” end. We don’t have that pulled together.
‘Let Them Eat Cake’ fundraiser
An event that benefits Sacramento Self-Help Housing.
- When: 5:30 p.m. July 14
- Where: The Grand Ballroom (1215 J St., Sacramento)
- Cost: $40 in advance; $50 at the door
- Information: www.sacselfhelp.org