Elk Grove News

Site opens for homeless families in Elk Grove

Meadow House, Elk Grove’s second transitional home, opened Tuesday to provide support and mentorship for families seeking to escape homelessness.

The Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team, or HART, along with city leadership and local faith groups, led efforts to establish the home.

Meadow House came to fruition as a result of Elk Grove’s presence of homeless families and youths, said Debbie Schoeneshoefer, HART director.

Last year, the Elk Grove Unified School District identified more than 450 homeless children of its approximately 63,000 students. About 50 of those children, Schoeneshoefer estimated, exist in a severe state of homelessness, living out of cars or without shelter.

Following the 2008 recession, many poor, working-class Elk Grove families found themselves evicted from their homes and rental units, falling into homelessness, according to Schoeneshoefer. She has observed that another large portion of homeless families represent victims of domestic abuse who attempted to escape with too few resources.

Meadow House, in the city’s Old Town area, is the second of its kind in the city, with an identical operation and ownership model as the Grace House in a nearby residential area. The Grace House serves single, homeless individuals.

“After attempting to place a family with young kids in the Grace House out of desperation, it became painfully apparent HART needed a house designated for homeless families,” Schoeneshoefer said.

“The Meadow House will make families stronger,” said Shantel Hader, a Grace House resident who had previously been homeless for three years. “A lot of women will be able to escape abusive relationships. Children will have a place to come home; more importantly to call home.”

Although initially met with apprehension, the Grace House has proved successful and experiences neither police nor neighborhood conflict, said Sarah Bontrager, Elk Grove housing and public services manager. Since its 2013 opening, Grace House has served approximately 25 people, 80 percent of whom found permanent housing following graduation.

“The amount of work that’s been involved in these transitional houses by different organizations truly exemplifies a community coming together and supporting people who have fallen down on a hard time,” said Elk Grove City Councilman Darren Suen, who supported the project. “Who wouldn’t be behind something like that?”

The Meadow House serves up to 11 people – three families and a hired house monitor. The program is designed to house families for nine- to 12-week cycles.

The home, formerly owned by a large family of adopted and fostered children, features seven bedrooms and four bathrooms. A renovated kitchen space features two sinks, two dishwashers and three refrigerators – one for each family unit.

The Meadow House will cost about $30,000 in annual operations, funded in part by local affordable housing funds and federal grant money. A city committee sought and purchased the home with Community Development Block Grant funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city plans to turn ownership and operation over to a nonprofit housing assistance program, Sacramento Self Help Housing, which must manage Meadow House in compliance with federal regulations. Under the Housing and Urban Development Department, the property must operate solely as transitional housing for the next 55 years.

Contracted counselors – offering individual and family therapy for guests – and a Sacramento Self Help Housing case manager will visit the home weekly to ensure clients’ progress.

“Our goal is to help parents get back up on their feet, but our heart is to break that cycle of poverty and for them to see there’s hope in life,” Schoeneshoefer said.