Pass the plate

Jeff vonKaenel

Tonight in Sacramento, 2,800 men, women and children are homeless. Some 1,200 of them are literally on the streets, without a roof over their heads. There are any number of reasons—the unexpected loss of a job, a home foreclosure or a medical emergency. Perhaps one of your co-workers who was laid off, or a neighbor who lost their home, is among the people now sleeping on the streets.

The federal government is willing to send $1.6 million to Sacramento County to help solve the problem, but there’s a catch. To qualify, we need to raise $400,000 in matching funds. Problem is, our city and county governments can’t come up with it, since they’re in pretty dire straits themselves.

So where do we get the money? One of the two members of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s homeless task force, the Rev. Rick Cole of Capital Christian Center, has suggested that we pass the collection plate, but not just at his church. Why not collect donations at all the churches, synagogues and mosques in the region?

Why not, indeed? There are more than 1,000 religious organizations in the Sacramento area. That’s a lot of plate-passing potential. But many of these faith organizations have never worked together. So when Pastor Doug Reid of the conservative Capital Christian Center attended an Interfaith Service Bureau meeting to present this concept, and the very liberal Rev. David Thompson attended a meeting at Capital Christian Center to discuss details, the interfaith cooperation angels were singing hallelujah.

The idea just might catch on. On February 17, at 8 a.m., Mayor Kevin Johnson is inviting area religious leaders to Capital Christian Center to discuss the local homeless situation, and “pass the plate” is on the agenda.

Previously, Pastor Rick has asked his congregation to take the amount of money they would spend on one day’s food and donate it to feed the hungry. On the week of March 21, he suggests that all local religious organizations ask their congregations to take the amount that they spend on one day’s mortgage or rent and donate it towards helping the homeless.

That’s not as much as it might sound. For example, someone who pays $600 per month rent could divide that amount by 30 days and donate $20. Someone with a $3,000 mortgage could donate $100. Remember, if we raise $400,000 by September, the feds will pitch in $1.6 million. That’s our goal.

Here’s how you can make a difference. On Sunday, March 21, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation is sponsoring One Day to Prevent Homelessness. For every dollar you give, the feds will send us $4 to help our homeless population. On the week of March 21, contribute at your place of worship. Or keep the faith in your own way and contribute online at The angels will rejoice.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.