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Natisha’s Story

“I had a happy childhood,” Natisha began. It was an upbringing she shared with two half siblings, her mom and her grandmother – both functioning substance abusers, a habit Natisha would seemingly inherit years later as she veered away from her happy beginnings down what was soon to become a dark path. At 18, following her high school graduation, Natisha got a job, married and flirted briefly with crack cocaine….


Simona’s Story

Jan. 2016 – Simona had hit rock bottom—emotionally and financially. The crash was painful. Over the course of 16 days, she had left an abusive boyfriend and watched her father take his last breath. Then she did what she had always thought was elusive, she stopped drinking. Simona finally faced herself brutally and honestly. She wanted change and is now five months (as of Dec. 2017) into Saint John’s Program…


Chef Arturo Vargas Brings in the New Year!

This January, we welcome Chef Arturo Vargas as our first Guest Chef for Saint John’s Guest Chef Dinner Series! “Teaching and cooking has been my lifetime commitment and passion from the beginning, in Mexico and beyond. After learning about Saint John’s Program for Real Change, meeting some of the wonderful residents, and touring their beautiful facility, I knew I could make a difference!” shares Chef Vargas Chef Vargas first learned…


Santa Joe is Coming to Town!

“I had an alternative sentencing from the Sacramento Court for an expired registration. Instead of paying the fine, they gave me 10 hours of community service. The court handed me a list of all of the different places to choose from, and I chose the closest one to my house… Saint John’s.” Little did Joe know that he would continue to volunteer at Saint John’s for the next 11 years!…

Teach a Person to Fish & They Eat for a Lifetime

I heard about Saint John’s from a couple at my church, Fair Oaks Presbyterian, who have been helping prepare and serve dinner at Saint John’s for 10+ years. They bring various family and friends with them to serve the monthly taco night at Saint John’s, which I have heard is one of the clients’ favorite dinners! My husband and I knew we wanted to serve people and we like to…


HomeAid Sacramento-People Building the Way Home

Saint John’s Program for Real Change is known for inspiring almost magical, personal transformations within the women and children who temporarily call its facilities “home.” Living and learning in the safe and nurturing environment of the sanctuary buildings and grounds, Saint John’s Program participants enjoy the support they need to rebuild and transition their lives. Personal improvement is celebrated, positively ongoing and, at its best, generational. These wonderful life-affirming impacts…


Family & Relationship Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The meaning of domestic violence and our struggle to understand, intervene, and treat the injury and aftermath continues to evolve. Advancing from the early definition of the man who abuses his wife physically, the breadth of domestic violence awareness has grown to better capture how violence in familial relationships impacts the victim, survivor, abuser, and radiates out to family members and social relationships. We…


The First Steps to Success

Like all of the women at Saint John’s Program for Real Change, Sandy and Starr share common qualities – courage, resiliency and strength. And, like all of the women who step through the red door at Saint John’s, they have had their share of adversity and despondency including depression, drug and alcohol dependence, abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, and homelessness. But at the heart of their stamina is a belief in…


The Red Door Stories-Alicia

An innocent, newborn baby…what, exactly, did Mikhayla do to deserve the cruel life she was given? Why did she have to endure a world of such pain few of us can fathom, from the day she was born? The ninth child in a hopelessly broken family, the cold, cruel answer is…nothing. Nothing at all. Like all children, her lot in life was not of her own choosing. Her innocence became…


11-Year-Old Leah Nelson Throws Saint John’s a Surprise Party

To promote and encourage random acts of kindness, Leah Nelson, an 11-year-old visionary from Sacramento, created BecuzIcare11 in July of 2016. Leah’s message of kindness is spread through Rainbow Loom bracelets, made of rubber bands, which are given to people to encourage paying kindness forward. Her pay it forward initiative, has gone viral receiving over 100 million views on social media. Leah has fundraised thousands of dollars to “pay it…


The Red Door Stories-Sabrina

At just nineteen young years of age, Sabrina found herself sleeping under a bridge, alone in the cold, and pregnant. Born into a world filled with alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence, she had never known a life without utter chaos. And now, she too was bringing another new life into that same dark place. As a child, she vividly remembers her father chasing her mother through the house, screaming at…


Sheila’s Story

Sheila, a 54-year-old native of Hawaii, has long been haunted by her younger brother’s untimely death at 18—something for which she blames herself. She has cowered under a shadow of whiskey and methamphetamine—a darkness that took control of her life for nearly 40 years before she found Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Sheila’s self-destructive behavior began in her teens. As a young addict, she dropped out of high school…



Written by Tara Cryderman, Psy.D, Assistant Director of Integrated Health Services and Susan Barron, Ph.D., Director of Integrated Health Services   Since first proclaimed in 1987, October has been Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness Month. During the month of October, we seek to increase awareness of DV as a societal problem that affects women, men, and children, extending through individual families and often over generations. DV is a devastating problem occurring…


Breaking the Cycle

Written by Abra Ruthenbeck, Director of Children’s Programs, Saint John’s Program for Real Change “Break the cycle of poverty and dependence one family at a time”. As the Director of Children’s Programs, I whole-heartedly agree with the Saint John’s Program for Real Change vison statement and I see it working every single day. At Saint John’s we are always asking ourselves, how can we measure outcomes? How do we know…


Meal time at Saint John’s

Written by Ursula Whitfield, Director of Operations, Saint John’s Program for Real Change Meal time is a big deal here at Saint John’s for Real Change. Although we are on a shoestring budget and heavily rely on the generosity of our donor base, we somehow manage to feed all of the women and children we serve every day a nutritious meal. We follow the food guidelines of the California Department…


An Open Letter to the Next President of the United States

Written by Michele Steeb, CEO, Saint John’s Program for Real Change Dear Madam or Mr. President-To-Be: Homelessness is one of the least talked-about problems in your campaigns so far. By every credible report, homelessness is ripping holes in the fabric of the country you’re about to lead. The good news is that it can be practically managed if we stop trying to address it with a one-size-fits-all solution. National data shows…


Labor Day at Saint John’s Program for Real Change

Written by Susan Barron, Ph.D., Director of Integrated Health Services Labor Day is a holiday that highlights the contributions and achievements of the American worker. Since 1894 after a hard-won fight for workers rights and conditions, Labor Day has been our end of summer celebration appreciating workers and the products, goods, and services provided by them to our community. The labor force in the U.S. has been declining over the…



From Day One, Jennifer Kaye knew she eventually needed to add employees with restaurant and food service experience to her business.  About a Bite Bakery, launched in 2011 as an online baked goods company run out of a warehouse in Gold River, Jennifer was introduced to Saint John’s in 2012 when a friend invited her to lunch at Plates Café.  That day marked the beginning of a beautiful partnership. “I…


Perseverance with Lilly C.

After 30 years shooting heroin with her husband, Lilly found a higher power in Jesus and was sober for 17 years before relapsing with alcohol. Because she was in and out of jail for 10 years for stealing to support her addiction, much of the time Lilly’s four kids were left in the care of their grandmother. Lilly had no idea how damaged she was inside; she never believed she…


Launching a New Life – Saint John’s 2016 Graduation

Written by Rob Stewart     This will be tough. Tough to put into words the powerful, life altering, joyous event I and hundreds of others had the pleasure to witness last week, the 2016 Employment Training Graduation of Saint John’s Program for Real Change. I have been emceeing events for 20 years, mostly in the past five years here in Northern California. I do not compare events. Each has…


Experiencing Gratitude with Jessica L.

Born to a family of addicts, Jessica began to drink heavily after her brother passed away from an overdose. Shortly thereafter, two cousins were shot and killed in separate incidents, all leading to an addiction to meth, add the loss of her job and her home, and an abusive relationship. She began to sell meth to support her habit, ultimately landing in jail for possession. “Saint John’s gave me the…


Grantee Develops Big Data for Big Change

Originally posted at   In March 2016, Amy was at the lowest point of her life. Recently released from Sierra Vista Mental Health center after attempting suicide, she knew she needed something different to break her 15-year cycle of addiction. “I just couldn’t go to another recovery home,” she remembers. “I thought: this is it for me.” And that’s when an online search brought up Saint John’s Program for…


Why is Real Change So Difficult?

written by David Flanagan   Many people celebrate the new year by writing down a list of new goals and resolutions for change — I’m going to lose ten pounds. I’m going to be a better parent. I’m going to wake up earlier and go running. And more often than not, even the most well-meaning advocate for change somehow finds themselves right back where they started, living each day like…


Documenting Real Change with Elisha

I am nervous. I am about to meet Elisha, a 33-year old mother of four and a participant in Saint John’s Program for Real Change. I have been asked to document her life story. Perhaps she is as nervous to share her history as I am to chronicle it. Founded in 1985, the Sacramento-based Saint John’s program has been providing women like Elisha with the support and resources to escape…


Pursuing clarity with Jackie T.

  “I learned how to address my issues; Saint John’s helped me to find myself and I gained confidence.  I was so inspired by the stories of the other women.” Addicted to meth and alcohol, Jackie started using at the age of 13.  Moving through her addiction from Las Vegas to Riverside to Sacramento, she ultimately lost custody of her children, suffered from domestic violence and depression and ended up homeless. …


demonstrating tenacity with Grace J.

     “Saint John’s taught me how to peel back the layers so I can heal – that’s just what I needed.” A meth addict for 10 years, Grace found herself homeless and lost her children to CPS. After her first stint at Saint John’s several years ago, Grace was clean and sober, earned her GED, was on her college’s honor roll and on her way to a better life…



Event to Honor 2016 Mothers of the Year, Sacramento River Cats CEO Susan Savage and Saint John’s Alumna Alicia Portillo Sacramento, CA, May 6, 2016 – Saint John’s Program for Real Change, Sacramento’s largest shelter and the only one focused exclusively on women and children, will hold its 10th Annual Tea for Real Change on Wednesday, May 18 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, 1209 L Street, from 2:00 p.m. to…

BIGDOG save the date postcard


Plates Midtown, run by Saint John’s Program for Real Change, to Serve Free Food and Drinks to Donors on May 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Beginning at midnight on May 3rd, 2016, the Sacramento community will come together for a 24-hour fundraising challenge, the BIG Day of Giving! Raising nearly $9 million last year in support of some 570 local non profits, the community will come together from…

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Choosing to be at Saint John’s

It’s been just over a year since I left behind a lifelong career working in Finance, HR and Operations in the high-tech world. Something about hitting that mid-century mark in life, getting two of three kids through college (and the third well on her way), and having achieved a C-suite title at a tech start-up but still not feeling satisfied made me realize it was time to take the leap….

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I wanted to do something that was socially rewarding – Chef Scott

  From 23 years as a sous chef at five star restaurants and country clubs to feeding over 100 homeless women and children a day, Chef Scott rises at 5 am daily and joins a crew of volunteers to feed some of Sacramento’s most vulnerable and marginalized population; the clients of Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Operating with food donations, a crew of volunteers and a limited budget, Chef…

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The Gift of Recovery: My Story

Written by Paul Mitchell   April 29, 1987. It was a Wednesday, two days after my 17th birthday. I remember both days. On one I was at school early, trying to find someone who would get me high for my birthday, not wanting to use whatever drugs I had hidden away. On the other I was checking myself into rehab. I was what they call a high-bottom alcoholic and drug…



“Saint John’s taught me that I’m responsible for my own life. I never grasped that before. I learned to take charge.” Cynthia’s spiral into 28 years of addiction began at the age of 12. She bounced from one abusive relationship to another until her former boyfriend posed a serious threat to her relationship with her son. That day, she said “enough is enough.” Saint John’s was the perfect place to…

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“Saint John’s taught me to never give up on life. The hope everyone gives you as they share their story, give their advice – it brightens that spark you lost.” For years, Emily lived on other people’s couches, battling a vicious drug addiction. Her wake-up call came when Child Protective Services took her children away. That’s when she turned to Saint John’s. She maintained her sobriety and became the first…

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Celebrating Cornisha H.

        “You have to want something different to happen in your life.  Until I came to Saint John’s, I didn’t know I had options.  I’m not walking on eggshells anymore.” Cornisha was afraid to leave – afraid she wouldn’t be able to take care of her two children on her own, and afraid she’d have no other option than to go back to the abusive relationship she…

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Stepphanie faced destitution after losing her home and quality of life to foreclosure and poor credit. She needed to recover, and Saint John’s was the place for her to do that. She embraced the program and thrived in employment training at Plates Café. Just eight months later, she began working at Sacramento State University’s Restaurant and Mulvaney’s B&L. Today, she is managing a branch of About A Bite Bakery. Bouncing…


Flying High at the 2nd Annual Party for Change

Flying high this year, the 2nd Annual Party for Change, was held in one of the spectacular hangars at the Sacramento Executive Jet Center. This unique, spacious setting provided an exciting environment where guests could share an exquisite meal while revealing their generosity and celebrating the 30th anniversary of Saint John’s Program for Real Change – an incredibly worthy program committed to helping mothers with children take control of their…


Doors and Dreams

From City Hall (pictured above) to 555 Capitol Mall, About a Bite Bakery and places all over town, Red Doors are popping up and the buzz is building over our Celebrating30! Campaign.  We have helped 30,000 women and children work hard and attain new lives over these past 30 years, but our work is far from over. While the “Celebrating30!” Campaign highlights and celebrates our success, its higher purpose is…


Two gifts in one…

The other day I heard a familiar voice in our reception area. Going out to see who it was, I was thrilled to find a dear friend and her adorable children. She explained they had come to fulfill one of our “needs list” items, and had a dozen brand new kids backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, to donate to our mission. It was a sight to behold! They were all super-cool designs…

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Unique ways to support Saint John’s

Here are four unique ways to support Saint John’s program: TWEET For Change In this age of social media, an easy and terrific way to support your favorite organizations (*hint* Saint John’s!) is by following, liking, retweeting and sharing. Each time you share one of our posts, you’re creating the opportunity for members of your social network to become Saint John’s supporters, too. If you don’t already follow us, we’re…

"just keep swimming!"

Saint John’s family finds healing through poetry and Finding Nemo

Healing through art Creativity is an incredibly meaningful form of therapy. Allowing thoughts, feelings and emotions to manifest themselves artistically is an important part of the healing process for many. We’ve adopted this form of therapy at Saint John’s thanks to the help of Dr. Mark, who volunteers his time every Friday to conduct an art therapy class for the women in our program. From this exercise comes beautiful and…

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Contribute your voice to the Saint John’s story

Wheat Ridge Ministries  is an Illinois-based non-profit that helps dreamers everywhere to realize those dreams through crucial financial support. Fueling dreams Wheat Ridge provides important initial funding, enabling health and human care initiatives to get off the ground – moving from dream to reality. They have helped “kick-start” initiatives ranging from affordable health care in Tanzania, to a community garden at a church on the south side of Chicago, to…


Good Things Come to Those Who Hustle

We are very excited to have a guest post this week, written by Lyndsey Moya. When she isn’t with her family, taking her adorable 3 year old daughter, Zoey, to ballet practice or making a trip through the Starbucks drive-thru for her famous Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte, Lyndsey serves as the Career Center Manager at Saint John’s.   Success is not easy Success isn’t easy. You have to hustle. This, in a nutshell, is…

The symbolic red door that has led to a great deal of life change over the past 30 years

The Red Door: A Sign of Hope and a Beacon of Help for Homeless Families

The symbolism of a door is rich with meaning. It stands as a passage from one world to the next—the entrance to a new beginning.  It symbolizes a decision to open up the future and close the past. Walking through a door creates a feeling of hope for the opportunities that await on the other side. Red door as a symbol of hope But a red door? Now that is different….

Saint John's kids after another great day of camp

Sacramento Kings All-Star Gives Camp Scholarships to Saint John’s Kids

DeMarcus Cousins is a great asset to our community. As the all-star center for our Sacramento Kings, the work he’s doing in our city can’t be overlooked. Last week, DeMarcus held his annual summer camp at Sacramento High School for local kids. It’s not unusual for NBA players to host youth camps during the long summer months, but this camp was unique – it was free to 200 underprivileged youth…

Our Liberty Is Bound Together

  It’s undeniable that there’s a stigma in our country surrounding homelessness. Avoiding eye contact with the man holding the sign at the light or steering clear of the woman with the dog on the sidewalk – unfortunately, we’ve all done it. Calling on a relationship with someone you know who is very different from you can provide a new perspective on how we view the homeless community. Perceived differences…


Investing in the Future

When you think about it, many non-profit organizations are in a most unusual situation. Seemingly counterintuitive, the ultimate goals of our organizations are meant to one day put us out of business. Here at Saint John’s Program for Real Change the purpose of our work is to eradicate poverty and homelessness, and if we do that, we, the Saint John’s staff, donors and volunteers are left with the best possible…


FIghting Homelessness: Breaking Points to Breakthroughs

Saint John’s Program isn’t for everyone. It’s not a Band-Aid. It’s not just an emergency meal or warm bed. Really, it’s not even a shelter. And that’s done on purpose – that’s how it was created. Saint John’s Program is, however, for women who are fed up and ready to make new choices. It is for those who are ready to work, ready to be uncomfortable, ready to face inner…

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The Vicious Cycle of Poverty and Homelessness

Unfortunately, at this point it’s become an understood fact – poverty and homelessness is a cycle. It’s cyclical generationally, and it’s cyclical monetarily. As an organization focused on offering a hand up to homeless families, highlighting and addressing the countless obstacles of poverty is necessary. The common misconception that people are homeless because they choose not to work, is just simply not true. The majority of families who come through…


The Power of Change

We believe wholeheartedly in the profound impact and importance of everyone’s personal journey, and the story of change that comes as a result. The inspiring stories of the women who come through our program are many, however today we’re focusing on a most unusual story from a very unlikely supporter of Saint John’s. Robert has donated to Saint John’s in the past, but it wasn’t until his donation in early…

The Inaugural Post

Welcome to the inaugural post to the Saint John’s blog. This writing marks a new chapter I’ve been eager to start since my first week at Saint John’s– a place where you, our Saint John’s community of supporters, can come for success stories of program graduates, get a behind the scenes look at our program and hear a consistent voice coming from inside these walls. I promise to keep you…


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email us at:
2443 Fair Oaks Blvd, #369
Sacramento, CA 95825-7684
Mailing address only.
Not a physical location.
Nonprofit, 501(c)(3)
(Tax ID: 68-0132934).

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