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Sacramento County sees increase in homeless families seeking resources

State data shows more homeless families utilizing resources following the pandemic.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Californians see homelessness as one of the state's top issues. State data shows the number of families experiencing homelessness in the Sacramento region is only going up and many feel enough isn't being done to fix it. 

For the past two years, a Sacramento family of six struggled to find a stable place to live.

"We felt like we were being punished for something that we didn't do," said Rodney Lewis Sr.

It started in 2020 after their North Highlands apartment caught on fire. It was a total loss.

"I'm just... I'm shattered at this point because before then we had just went through a similar situation of homelessness," said Erika Knight.

Both Erika Knight and her husband, Rodney Lewis Sr., were faced with homelessness again; this time with four children.

"It's heartbreaking when your kids are asking you when they're going to get a place or when can they get a cooked meal? Or why we can't get a place? How can we explain that to kids?" said Lewis.

The family bounced between sleeping in their cars and hotel rooms.

"Embarrassed to see us sleeping in our cars, nowhere to use the restroom... it was the worst feeling ever," said Knight.

Knight says she couldn't continue to put her family through this pain after her daughter spoke up last year.

"My oldest daughter, she said, 'Mom, are we ever gonna get a place? Are we ever gonna get an apartment?' I went into the bathroom and I cried so hard, I cried so hard," said Knight.

She called the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Holy Spirit Church and asked for help. The church's program is funded through grants, donations and fundraisers. 

Through the program, the family was finally able to move into an apartment. Nearly a year later, they're still in that apartment.

"It's a place, you know, we're not out on the street anymore," said Knight.

According to the state's Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency, homeless families in Sacramento County seeking resources continue to rise. In 2021, 4,492 families with children sought access to services. In 2022, that number jumped to 5,281.

"I think a lot of these programs started during the pandemic when schools weren't open anymore and they started seeing more kids," said Lucia Vega.

Vega is the program director at Mustard Seed School, a Loaves and Fishes program providing free school for children experiencing homelessness.

"We see the families that are camping down by the river, and they come here for school, for showers, for food," said Vega.

Vega says less families are coming to Mustard Seed since the pandemic. She believes it's because the families need so much more than school.

"It makes me sad because there's not enough resources to help everybody. There's not enough shelter beds to put families in shelter," said Vega.

As for Knight and Lewis, they no longer want to be another statistic and will continue to do better for their kids.

"I was just like, look, just your home... you have a home. You can stop worrying. You have a home," said Knight.

The couple is currently working on progressing their careers. Knight is working to get her GED to get into college in hopes of becoming a nurse.

There are resources available and if you are in the Sacramento area, you can call 211. Mustard Seed School continues to offer services while the program at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Holy Spirit Church is accepting donations.

WATCH ALSO: Tour Davis' new facility aiming to help the unhoused

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