Since 1985, Saint John’s Program for Real Change has supported more than 30,000 formerly homeless women and children, providing them with the essential tools and knowledge to change the trajectory of their lives.

We operate the largest residential program for formerly homeless women and children in the Sacramento region, and we are the only program to focus on mothers.

Our Mission

Saint John’s Program for Real Change provides a safe space for women and children to heal and develop the skills necessary to transform their lives.

We accomplish our mission by adhering to our vision — end the generational cycle of trauma and homelessness. Our current capacity allows us to serve up to 550 women and children each year, and we provide, on average, 675 comprehensive service hours for each family, every month they are with us.

The History of Saint John’s

In 1985, Saint John’s was a 30-day emergency shelter. Today it is a comprehensive, integrated continuum of care.

Saint John’s Shelter is established. 20 women and their children, once sleeping on the front steps of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento, now have a warm bed and delicious food to eat.

Officially incorporated as a 501(c) non-profit organization, we moved into a small facility with Loaves & Fishes.

With an ever-increasing need, we expanded our facilities to better serve 40 homeless women and their children.

In an effort to provide real assistance to those mothers who were working or trying to find employment, we added a special evening childcare program.

Real change began to take hold in everybody’s lives as Saint John’s ventured into a whole new realm, shifting from more than just an emergency shelter into a truly innovative, 18-month program, a continuum of care, designed to bring about real change and dramatic results… to stop the cycle of homelessness once and for all.

With the momentum of continued results and success, we moved to an even larger facility on Power Inn Road, expanded our services to include real case-by-case management, healthcare, a well-child clinic, classes and workshops, substance abuse and mental health counseling, support groups and a variety of services that would help ensure a new and better life for the families we cared for.

  • Oprah Winfrey comes calling and features Saint John’s on national television!
  • The Hero of Human Service Award is presented by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
  • Now with the capacity to serve 100 families, it became increasingly apparent that the 30-Day approach was not adequate and did not allow sufficient time to improve the trajectory for homeless women and children. Saint John’s was restructured from a 30-day “emergency shelter” to a 90-day, more comprehensive program designed to provide clients with education and tools to realize change.
  • As the US economy tanked, Saint John’s could not meet the increased demand and began turning away 200+ women and children each day.
  • Now introducing more and more women into society with a renewed sense of hope and new life skills, we established the Saint John’s Career Education and Placement Center. Women completing the program could now march forward with the incentive of knowing they would find employment and be able to continue on their new journey of independence.
  • We were honored to receive the Hero of Human Service Award by the Sacramento County Board of  Supervisors.
  • The demand for services continues to escalate, forcing Saint John’s to turn away 300+ women and their children on a daily basis. There are too many people who need and want help that cannot be served.
  • On a positive note, we receive a “first-ever” HUD grant to fund ‘Next Step’ housing for families who need additional support beyond the 90-days allowed.
  • Saint John’s launched a formal, on-the-job training program, a precursor to our three social enterprises.
  • Our celebrated GED Preparatory Program is established. Beginning to end, what began as the essential provision of basic food and shelter for a woman and her children, has now become a viable, high-profile, essential community program in which a woman, seemingly without hope, can not only complete her basic education, but can now also qualify for an entire host of new possibilities. And finally, possibly for the first time in her life, she can provide for the children she loves in a consistent, ongoing way.
  • 48 graduates (to date) — 48 women now willing, able and capable to love, support and take care of themselves their children.
  • Hello, Plates Café. Saint John’s opens our first social enterprise/hands-on employment training program, located on Business Park Way in Sacramento.
  • Simultaneously, we launched a new supportive housing program to allow families housing and the ability to complete the six months of employment training required before being placed in employment. This addition expanded the number of clients served from 100 to 145 and increased the length of service for each family for up to 18 months.
  • Success breeds success as awards and recognition begin to flow like water. Among the honors bestowed, Saint John’s receives the Martin Luther King Jr. Difference-Maker Award, the Regional Social Equity Leader (Valley Vision), Women Who Mean Business Award  (Sacramento Business Journal), Non Profit Visionary of the Year (Sacramento News & Review), Sacramento Magazine’s People of the Year, and the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Al Geiger Memorial Award
  • As if Saint John’s had not pushed the envelope far enough in the previous years, in 2011, the new concept of Corporate Event Catering was introduced. Plates now provides unique specialized food services for parties and corporate events. Again, this venture provided not only an additional stream of income to the organization, but a new (and intense) social job skill for each woman to bring to the open marketplace.
  • A new day dawns with the launch of First Steps Child Development Center. Now mothers in the Saint John’s Program not only had a safe place for their children to learn, but the added opportunity to work in the Center, learn real job skills in the Child Care industry, and thereby become very marketable and employable.

Saint John’s presents the very first graduating class of women with 100% Employment Training. No other non-profit had taken this type of long-term individual approach and witnessed the exceedingly dramatic results of individual women changing their lives and providing a new life for their children and our society at large.

  • Realizing the need for continued help and ongoing service to the families who move beyond our initial Program, Saint John’s established more permanent housing through our Greenway Program, a Housing Solution dedicated to those families who showed genuine promise and dedication toward real change.
  • We opened Plates2go in Midtown, Sacramento, providing later-stage training for women in employment training and employing several former graduates as its managers.
  • Executive Director Michele Steeb named one of the Top Executives (The Sacramento Business Journal)
  • A new name. A new logo. A new brand. — With the realization that we provided far more than just shelter, the decision to change our name to Saint John’s Program for Real Change was unanimously accepted. A massive undertaking was launched to build a new brand as well, in an ongoing effort to raise awareness and to more clearly illustrate the comprehensiveness of services provided and the results being realized by the families served.
  • A brand new facility, too! With the purchase of a new facility for homeless women and children, we were then able to transform the former shelter into additional transitional housing for up to 45 women and children. Appropriately named “Second Story”, this move expanded our capacity to serve up to 190 women and children each day.

Our success becomes apparent when our annual operating budget reaches an impressive $4.5 million. With a mere 18% provided by government funding (compared to $1.1 million with 80% government funding in 2007), we quadrupled the size of the program with the same net government funding. This represented the incredible strength of dedicated and passionate fundraising efforts and ongoing support from the Sacramento community.

Saint John’s partnered with the State of California to launch a new contract for Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP) for up to 50 incarcerated women per day to support them in becoming employed and self-sustaining as they transition to the community.

In June 2017, we purchased and renovated an 11,000-square-foot building adjacent to our existing property. The proximity of the existing and new facilities creates a campus environment and allows us to leverage economies of scale. This expansion included 22 private bedrooms, a large state- of-the-art classroom, private meeting rooms for case management and therapy, a laundry facility, restrooms, showers, and a community room. The new building also houses Saint John’s administrative offices, which is philosophically aligned with our belief that the administration of an organization should never lose sight of the clients it serves.

We started a new social enterprise — Red Door Desserts. With the closing of our two restaurants and our catering business, Plates Café and Catering and Plates Midtown due to COVID-19, we needed to redevelop our employment training. We quickly shifted our business to combine our internal strengths with a practical and memorable product that helps share our stories. With Red Door Desserts, women at Saint  John’s continue their hands-on employment training and learn to not only bake beautiful and delicious desserts, but also learn order management, supply chain elements, packaging and shipping.

  • We opened Saint John’s Square. Thanks to the City of Sacramento, HomeAid Sacramento, Project Home Key and Roebbelen Construction, eleven new modular homes opened on the Saint John’s campus. Saint John’s Square, a new transitional housing community at Saint John’s Program, houses up to 55 women and children and provides residents with experience in running and maintaining a household to help prepare them for independence. 
  • We renewed our five-year contract for the Custody to Community Transitional Reentry Program (CCTRP).
  • Celebrating 36 years creating real change for Sacramento’s most vulnerable citizens, Saint John’s has so far helped to provide real change in the lives of some 30,000 women and children.