Catherine Riggs and daughter Charlotte entered the Oak Park homeless shelter with no possessions but the clothes they were wearing. The single mother and her 8-year-old have been homeless for five years, but they consider the Next Move shelter the best accommodation they’ve found.
“You are here to help yourself, and they are here to help you help yourself,” said Riggs, 49.
Next Move, a Sacramento-based nonprofit, provides a shelter and resource center for families without homes. The organization provides job training and parenting classes to its guests and also assists with transportation and finding long-term housing. Guests are also provided small items like free toiletries and laundry service.
This year, the organization is raising funds for a bed-in-a-bag – a comforter, pillow case, flat sheet and a fitted sheet – to gift to every child who graduates the program, regardless of where they move next. It has asked Book of Dreams readers to donate funds to purchase 276 such packages.
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“The kids we are serving have been through massive amounts of inconsistently and change. Something as simple as a blanket can provide comfort,” said Rachel Wickland, the organization’s executive director.
Launched 45 years ago, the nonprofit houses 500 residents a day on average. Next Move operates one shelter, the Emergency Family Shelter Campus in Oak Park, as well as Francis House on C Street, a resource center that provides homeless people items like eyeglasses, bus passes, California IDs and motel vouchers.
“Anyone can come in off the street and receive help,” Wickland said.
Next Move represents one of only two family homeless shelters in Sacramento County that accepts single fathers and males older than 14. The Family Shelter serves approximately 276 children each year. Families are given private rooms.
During their stay at the shelter, families are provided beds and mattresses with sheets and blankets. The bedding materials are retained by the shelter and washed for the next client.
Clients can stay in the emergency shelter up to 120 days, though the nonprofit aims to reintegrate families into stable housing and employment within 30 days.
The organization helps its guests look for long-term housing and teaches a curriculum of financial planning skills called “Ready to Rent.”
Riggs, who has stayed at the shelter since August, said she aspires to live in a home and become a counselor for victims of domestic violence – a crime that Riggs said she has personally experienced. She said organizations like Next Move as essential for any homeless family that wants to gain independence.
“If you don’t have a place like this to help you, you are stuck,” she said.
Needed: 276 beds-in-a-bag (a comforter, pillow case, flat sheet, and a fitted sheet) for every child who graduates from the Next Move program.
All Book of Dreams donations are tax-deductible, and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs.