Volunteerism in the Homeless Response System

April marks a nationwide celebration for volunteerism—a pivotal force in achieving our goal of preventing and ending homelessness.  


In the last decade, Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) and the Sacramento Continuum of Care (CoC) have partnered with between 500 to 1,000 local volunteers biannually to map and capture a census count of people living in places not meant for human habitation. In January 2024, we completed another successful Point-In-Time Count with the aid of hundreds of local volunteers, professionals from partner organizations, and staff. 


Additionally, we, along with the global community, witnessed the tremendous power of volunteers tethering each of us during one of the most challenging periods of our time: the COVID-19 pandemic. SSF mobilized a wonderful network of homeless outreach professionals, advocates, and persons with lived experience of homelessness to educate around the life-saving potential of COVID-19 vaccinations and disaster preparedness. With volunteer aid, we ensured the provision of 4,000 doses COVID-19 vaccinations (2021-2023) among unsheltered individuals and distributed over 200 disaster preparedness kits (2023-2024). 


Volunteers also continually contribute their time and expertise, providing input for equitable and affordable housing through community leadership roles. The CoC Board is comprised of over 30 members, CoC committees bring together over 100 members, and SSF is grounded by the service of our volunteer Board of Directors. 


Volunteer presence and contributions bring increased visibility to the chronic health and behavioral issues, trauma, abuse, violence, shame, stigma, and discrimination that people experiencing homelessness endure—making them even more vulnerable. Volunteers amplify awareness about the complexities of homelessness, aligning with our data-driven best practices and furthering sustainable solutions.  


Moreover, volunteers bring diverse perspectives and innovative ideas, enriching our approach to addressing homelessness and enhancing system performance. Through their efforts, volunteerism creates a robust network of support that extends beyond SSF and the CoC, strengthening community connection and empowering a collective effort to end homelessness. 


I have witnessed that volunteers act as lifelines to those with unmet social and health needs by preparing meals for sheltering families, guiding women seeking safe havens from domestic violence, and donating essentials at homeless encampments. Together, let’s continue paving pathways to foster empathy and understanding within our community, creating a more supportive environment for our vulnerable neighbors. 


Over the coming month, we look forward to sharing with you stories from volunteers who support our work to resolve homelessness in Sacramento. Our Volunteer Network has now grown to nearly 2,000 connections and is expanding. It goes without saying that we could not do this work without the many ways in which volunteers “step in.” We are grateful for the passion, compassion, and commitment of our community volunteers. 



With deep appreciation, 


Kathreen Daria, MPH