Building a Better Community: Joe Smith’s Leadership and Legacy

We are thrilled to be featuring Joseph Smith, one of Sacramento’s most profound and inspirational leaders in homeless services. Joe is the Director of Residential Services for Hope Cooperative and serves on several Continuum of Care (CoC) committees at Sacramento Steps Forward, including the Point-In-Time Count Committee. 


Joseph—or Joe—Smith is well known in the homeless services community for his warm presence in leadership spaces and his years of dedicated service at Loaves & Fishes. Joe’s story is inspirational to many, as he has transformed over six years of lived experience into an impactful career path. From volunteering to now holding significant leadership roles at various Sacramento homeless service provider agencies, Joe exemplifies resilience and dedication. His journey emphasizes the value of lived experience in driving meaningful change and displays the power of compassionate leadership. We are honored to celebrate Joe’s achievements and his continued impact on our community. Please read below to find out more about Joe and his Journey. 

Describe yourself, your role, and why you were motivated to work in the volunteer space.


My name is Joseph Smith. I am the Director of Residential Services for Hope Cooperative, the Vice Chair of the Continuum of Care (CoC) Board, and the co-chair of the Point-In-Time Committee and Coordinated Access System (CAS) Committee.


I was unhoused from 2005 to 2011. After working on my health and being housed for five years, my doctor instructed me to start volunteering as part of my rehabilitation. I volunteered for the Red Cross and the Sacramento Sports Commission. One day, a friend told me about a volunteer opportunity at Friendship Park, a Loaves & Fishes program. I volunteered at the service desk and in the men’s shower program. After three months, I was offered a job, and thus began my journey back into the workforce.


After six years at Loaves & Fishes, I came to work at Hope Cooperative as a Program Director.

Tell us your organization’s mission and goals. What population(s) do you serve?


Hope Cooperative (aka TLCS) is a non-profit psychosocial rehabilitation agency that moves people from a life of instability to connection and self-sufficiency through a combination of permanent supportive housing, mental health services, substance use rehabilitation, and life skills in Sacramento and Yolo County. We believe that hope changes lives and that the potential for life change is always possible. For more than 40 years, we have operated as a client-driven organization dedicated to providing whole-person care using a person-centered approach for those who are homeless, living with mental health challenges, and co-occurring substance use disorders.


We provide vital services for more than 10,000 individuals annually. Our more than 350 dedicated employees work to build stronger communities by offering culturally sensitive services that support people on their path to self-sufficiency.

Why is volunteering with your organization important? How does it lead to a long-lasting impact within our community?


Volunteering with our organization allows us to address critical community needs, create positive change, and support those who are most vulnerable. Volunteers can contribute their time, skills, and energy to make a meaningful difference. This immediate impact leads to long-lasting change by building a stronger, more connected community and inspiring others to get involved.

Share a success story of how volunteers have made a difference through your organization or the event you volunteered at?


During the Christmas holiday season, volunteers made stockings and cooked dinner for the guests of our 24-hour respite center. At our Wellness Centers, volunteers participate in groups and share in activities. These activities leave our clients with a feeling of inclusiveness.



What are the elements of a successful volunteer in the homeless response system? 


The elements of a successful volunteer in the homeless response system include empathy, patience, and a nonjudgmental attitude. Volunteers also need strong communication skills, respect for diversity, and the ability to work as part of a team. 


Flexibility and adaptability are also essential, as volunteers in this space often encounter unpredictable situations and diverse needs. A willingness to learn and understand the complexities of homelessness and a commitment to maintaining confidentiality and privacy are also crucial for effective volunteer work in the homeless response system. 

Joe highlights the profound impact that volunteering in the homeless response system can have on both the community and the individual. He shares that it is “a great way to give back to the community and impact the lives of those in need. Whether serving meals at a shelter, organizing donation drives, or providing mentorship and support, there are many ways to get involved.” He also noted that volunteers not only address the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness but also raise awareness and inspire others to join in to contribute to their community’s betterment. 


For many, volunteering is a way to give back in their free time. However, for people like Joe, it has become a passion and career. His lived experience, knowledge, and compassionate heart have led him to a successful and impactful career path. Joe celebrates service by “engaging in meaningful volunteer work that positively impacts the lives of those in need and strengthens his community.” 


To inquire about volunteering, visit the Hope Cooperative website or call them at (916) 441-0123. For collaborations and partnerships, you can email 


At Sacramento Steps Forward, we have witnessed Joe’s incredible impact firsthand. His perceptive mind and gentle but powerful presence make a significant difference in every space he enters. Joe exemplifies the profound change that can be achieved when you do what you love with love. Thank you, Joe Smith, for your exemplary service and leadership. 

June 10, 2024 | Published by Sacramento Steps Forward

The responses above reflect the views of the those interviewed and do not represent the opinions of SSF, the Sacramento Continuum of Care, or our partners. These interviews serve to highlight the diverse contributions of volunteers in the homelessness response system.