On the night of April 3, 2022 a mass shooting occurred in downtown Sacramento near Ceasar Chavez Plaza. Tragically, six people lost their lives that evening. Among those lost was a local woman and member of the unsheltered community in Sacramento, named Melinda Davis. Melinda was a complex, strong willed, and gentle woman with a smile that was memorable to all those that knew her. As a life time resident of Sacramento Melinda faced many struggles growing up and eventually fell into homelessness early on in her life, with much of her time being spent in and around Caesar Chavez park.
I became Melinda’s outreach worker about 3 years ago when I met her at Sutter Hospital. I could always find Melinda down Jazz Alley on 9th Street, or staying cool in the shade outside of City Hall. My favorite memory of her was the day I brought Melinda her California Identification Card (ID). Melinda told me she had been homeless since she was a teenager, and had never had her own driver’s license or any form of valid ID. The system to obtain an ID can be very frustrating to navigate when you don’t have transportation or an easy way to prove to the clerk who you are, and she was definitely feeling a bit overwhelmed. After a long day of helping her get from place to place, collecting various documents, our final destination was the DMV where I watched her smile wide into the camera to take her ID photo. A few weeks later, her ID came in the mail and I ran to Cesar Chavez Plaza to deliver it. It was beautiful to see her face light up, and all of the frustrations she had endured melt away as she proudly showed off her very first ID. She was so excited for that thin piece of plastic that most of us take for granted, for the autonomy and power it gave her. This opened up doors to find housing, apply for benefits, and feel hope and supported.
Melinda Davis was known by many, especially those who frequented the Cesar Chavez Plaza area, her chosen home and where she felt safest as she experienced homelessness. On the night of April 3rd, Melinda was caught in the crossfire and lost her life to a senseless act of gun violence that had nothing to do with her, in the place she called her home. She will be missed terribly.
Melinda’s story highlights more than ever that the unsheltered community is at constant risk of experiencing traumatic life events–even death. Homelessness is a traumatic event in itself and the vulnerabilities that come with living on the streets opens up a door of dangers. An equitable community where everyone has a safe place to call home is Sacramento Steps Forward’s vision.
We strive to end people’s housing crises and create a safer community for all. We must continue to work towards a housing first model and help people find safe homes to stay. Melinda’s death shines a light on the urgency of this vision.