How one Woman Found Housing after being Homeless for 30 Years and Living on the Streets
Here is a great story by the Sacramento Bee about a woman that was homeless and living on the streets for 30 years and how she was able to eventually find housing. Katherine Ann Wahl spent decades panhandling at busy intersections around Sacramento’s central city. She would collect money for food and cigarettes by day and at night she slept at a hidden camping spot. Wahl, who is 61 years old, became homeless after fleeing a warrant for a misdemeanor narcotics offense in the state of Washington almost 30 years ago. After arriving in California, her car was stolen and she wound up homeless.
Wahl survived being homeless mostly by panhandling and accepting food, clothing and other essential items from church groups and others who help homeless people. However, she now lives in a south Sacramento apartment where she can do things such as cook meals, sleep in a comfortable bed, and lock her front door. She owes her change of fortune to a team of homeless “navigators” who convinced her to leave the streets and move into Sacramento’s winter triage shelter located on Railroad Drive in north Sacramento. The shelter staff helped her obtain critical documents that made the housing and her medical care possible. The Sacramento Police Department’s “homeless impact team,” which includes outreach and mental health specialists, worked with authorities in Washington state to clear the decades-old arrest warrant against Wahl because it had prevented her from obtaining government benefits. Wahl’s only brushes with the law in Sacramento County are citations for illegal camping.
There are over 300 homeless people who have lived at the triage shelter since it opened in December. It operates 24 hours a day, allows couples to stay together, and accepts pets. According to city statistics, 43 people who have come through the shelter have found housing. The shelter is run by Volunteers of America and costs over $400,000 a month to operate, which is a price tag that includes contract workers and extra police patrols in the surrounding area. Patrick Cornell, a community health worker for Pathways to Health + Home program, which helps connect homeless people to the triage shelter and other services, believes that Wahl’s story is a great example of “what can happen when we are all truly working together.” Hopefully more homeless people are able to get off the streets and get the help that they need.