William Ramsey has been homeless on and off since he was 13.
Now 22, Ramsey said his mother died during childbirth, so he grew up with a foster family. But he said by the time he was a teen, he was living on the streets.
At 16, he felt like things were improving. He was living with roommates in an Elk Grove apartment, working in the kitchen at an Outback Steakhouse. But when the restaurant cut his hourly wage and hours, he could no longer afford rent, and was homeless again, he said.
“From there it spiraled straight down to depression, sadness and disparity,” Ramsey said.
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Last week, Ramsey moved from the streets of downtown in to a newly-renovated north Sacramento apartment, where he will be able to live for free while he earns his food handling certificate, applies for new jobs and receives counseling and other services.
“If you need help with anything here, they’ll help you. No matter what,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey is one of 30 formerly homeless people in program targeting teens and young adults, run by Sacramento nonprofit Hope Cooperative.
“We need to intervene with people before they have one, two or three life events that are so damaging that it’s so much harder to come back, and that’s what you’re doing here,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said at a press conference Monday outside the apartments.
The townhome-style apartments will house people ages 18 to 25 — many of whom are LGBTQ, are “aged out” of the foster system, grew up homeless or became homeless due to substance abuse issues, said Erin Johansen, executive director of Hope Cooperative.
A census count conducted in January 2017 found more than 3,600 people living without permanent shelter in Sacramento County — a 30 percent increase from 2015. More than 350 of them were between ages 18 and 25, Johansen said.
The nonprofit, formerly called TLCS, is receiving $400,000 in annual funding from U.S. Housing and Urban Development for the program, said Johansen. The nonprofit also received a $40,000 one-time grant from Sacramento County, as well as funding from Bank of America and Sutter Health, Johansen said.
The apartments house people for about six months at a time. Their rent is free while they look for work and learn to live with roommates, Johansen said. After leaving the apartments, participants can get subsidized rent elsewhere for up to 18 months.
Wind Youth Services, another provider of services and shelter for homeless youth, and nonprofit homeless services coordinator Sacramento Steps Forward are also involved in launching the program.
Hope Cooperative also runs a 48-bed complex for adults about a half a mile away from the new one, said Councilman Allen Warren, who represents the area where the apartments are located.
The nonprofit also runs several apartment complexes in downtown, midtown, Folsom and Arden Arcade, Johansen said.
The new apartments are the organization’s first that are exclusively for young people, and the first that will house residents without psychiatric disabilities, Johansen said.
Sacramento nonprofit Clean & Sober used to own the apartments — near the corner of Del Paso Boulevard and Juliesse Avenue — and housed homeless adults there, but that organization dissolved over the summer, Johansen said. The residents were moved to other housing and the units were renovated, Johansen said.
The apartments now feature new appliances, granite counter tops and wood flooring.
“These are better than a lot of the apartments and homes that all of us live in,” said Warren.