Monday, April 13, 2009

Forced attendence at religious service for Overflow sheltered

Yesterday afternoon at the pick-up area where persons seeking shelter in Overflow must be if they are to receive one of 204 shelter slots, a Christian church service was held with attendance to the service being mandatory.

The service was held on the Delany Center parking lot, a part of the Loaves & Fishes facility that Overflow management, Volunteers of America of Greater Sacramento and Northern Nevada, leases from Loaves & Fishes as the pick-up/staging area for homeless residents who are then bused to the Overflow [aka, Winter shelter] facility at Cal Expo.

Today, it is expected that the Sacramento city police will be giving eviction notices to those who remain in Tent City. Tent City residents will be expected to evacuate their location, on SMUD property, Wednesday and find other sleeping/living arrangements. The threat has been made that Tent City residents that remain on Thursday could be arrested.

An important part of the city's effort to peacefully disestablish the Tent City encampment is to have shelter slots at the ready at Overflow.

Now, it seems Overflow is operating as a Christian facility that is unwelcoming to homeless not of that faith.

From my understanding of events, a charitable group began serving spaghetti dinners outside the Delany parking lot as men and woman began assembling inside the lot, sometime after 3pm. Soon members of the faith-based group began coming onto the parking lot to distribute cold bottled water.

The preacher associated with the group then came on to the parking lot and asked and received permission to preach to the assembled homeless people.

Maria, the new person in charge of Overflow, was not in attendance at the parking lot. The two senior people on her staff, T. and K., slinked off, playing no part in the decision to allow the church group onto VOA space and requiring those seeking shelter to hear a sermon. A new Overflow employee, E., made the decisions relating to the church group's access.

The assembled homeless were required to sit quietly and listen to the sermon.

The name of the church group and the name of the preacher are not known to this reporter. At the end of the services, the group announced that they would return next week.

While the church group, with their spaghetti, were well received by many in the pick-up area, others are resentful at being forced to listen to a church service as a requirement for being given shelter for that night at Overflow.

Since Overflow is funded predominently by the city and county of Sacramento, it is a government program which is not supposed to force attendance of persons it serves to religious functions.

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