Empowering Youth to Be Champions for Change

Sacramento, CA (MPG)  |  By Ken Casparis, Sacramento County
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Panelists from the Homelessness Town Hall at C.K. McClatchy High School. Left to Right: Jacob Bytel (City of Sacramento Mayor’s Office), Julian Oakley (Wind Youth Services), Diana Anderson (Wind Youth Services), Kamryn Hall (Event organizer), Adriana Ruelas (Steinberg Institute) and Eduardo Ameneyro (Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance). Photo by Ellen Wong, courtesy of C.K. McClatchy High School

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - This past April, Kamryn Hall, a senior at C.K. McClatchy High School, organized and hosted a town hall event centered on homelessness as her senior project for the Humanities and International Studies Program (HISP). Representatives from the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, the City of Sacramento Mayor’s office, the Steinberg Institute and Wind Youth Services made up the panel.

The goal for this town hall was to educate and help youth who care about homelessness – and those experiencing homelessness – to learn more, and to help inspire others to take action and find ways to get involved in helping the cause.

Hall’s interest in homelessness is based on her observations of those living unsheltered in Sacramento. Knowing that homelessness is a big issue that has been declared a crisis, she felt that it was important to raise her classmates’ level of awareness and to get them interested in being a part of the solution.

This event was open to C.K. McClatchy students and staff, and the panel was made up of various community organizations who are working to assist homeless communities. Hall intentionally invited direct service providers and those responsible for developing homeless programs and policy.

“I set this up just for students so that it wasn’t political; it was just about education and asking questions,” said Hall. “I wanted people to be educated on the situation, and it made for a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Eduardo Ameneyro (pictured far right), Homeless Services Division Manager for the Department of Human Assistance, provided a unique perspective on behalf of his department’s core business as the administrator of welfare entitlement programs, as well as the division leading the Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness. “Homelessness is incredibly complex and cannot be completely resolved with housing. My team's work in each of the initiatives is highlighting the role generational poverty (and poverty in general) plays in homelessness.”

Meghan Marshall, Flexible Supportive Rehousing Manager for the Department of Human Assistance, was invited to attend this event. “The concern and compassion expressed by the students for those experiencing homelessness in our community was moving and brings me great hope,” said Marshall. “Getting youth involved and engaged in social welfare issues as early as possible is an investment in our future.”

One thing that surprised Hall and her fellow students were the unexpected factors that contribute to individuals experiencing homelessness, especially with regard to homeless youth who have fled abuse and other bad situations at home.

Hall’s town hall event helped change how both students and staff think about not just individuals experiencing homelessness, but about homelessness as a whole. A classmate approached Hall in her economics class to let her know the impact this event had on her. The classmate explained that a friend of hers was experiencing homelessness and, because of what she learned from the panelists, she took her to Wind Youth Services to receive medical attention and other services.

Check out the Responding to Homelessness in the County of Sacramento webpage to learn more about the Initiatives to Reduce Homelessness.