Throughout Sacramento and surrounding counties, homelessness is at an all-time high. On any given night, nearly 6,000 people are homeless in Sacramento. That’s up nearly 20 percent in the past two years. Our new documentary, Searching for Hope: Homeless in Sacramento includes compelling stories of survival and hope as it delves into causes of homelessness, and explores possible solutions.

Our production team has been out in Sacramento working to document just some of the stories of the people experiencing homelessness. These are up-close, personal stories; instead of distance shots of tents and bags, our photographer spent time with people, asked for permission, and took portraits. We’re sharing just a few in the post below, as well as on social media. Each picture is accompanied by a story of the person and the challenges they’ve faced.

Searching for Hope: Homeless in Sacramento will premiere on-air and online on November 25 at 7PM. You are invited to join us for a free preview screening on November 18; please RSVP on Eventbrite.

An older couple poses in front of their car, standing next to each other. The woman (left) is holding their medium-size white-and-brown spotted dog, and the man (right) has one hand on the woman and one hand on the dog.
Living in their car, this retired couple can no longer afford housing. We spent one morning with them on North A street in Sacramento, documenting their challenging living conditions, and the difficulties they face finding any type of housing they can actually afford.

 

An older woman sits in a tent and looks off into the distance. One arm is holding her knees; one hand holds the back of her head.
When we asked this woman what she needed, she burst into tears saying, “I’ve been robbed 22 times.” Several days later we revisited her camp and could hear her screaming at the men standing outside of her tent, “Stay away from me!”

 

A woman with short grey hair, a scarf, and purple sunglasses stares into the camera.
Talking too fast for us to understand, this woman spoke to our cameras near the state capitol as she accepted hot coffee and snacks from Sister Libby Fernandez and the Mercy Pedalers. Spend any time with the homeless community, and you’ll begin to see the full scope of the current mental health crisis facing our region and much of California.

 

A young man with his hair partially over his face, a tank top, and a tattoo on his arm stares into the camera under a freeway overpass.
This young man we met under the freeway says he’ll do whatever it takes to survive. His camp was filled with bicycles and bicycle parts, and he proceeded to buy and shoot heroin during our interview. Just a week later, he was banned from the immediate area by the city of Sacramento.

 

An older woman in a tank top and baseball cap sits inside a van.
This is Laurie, and she broke our hearts. Laurie’s retirement income isn’t enough to pay for housing, so she’s lived in her van behind a strip mall for the last 10 years. She spends part of her time searching the area for her son, also homeless, who suffers from untreated schizophrenia. On the day we spent with her, she found him. After an emotional reunion, Laurie revealed to us that she has a life-threatening medical condition that needs treatment. “I can’t recover in a van,” she said.

 

A woman in profile with a scarf over her head and small tattoos on her face smiles and stares away from the camera.
Wandering North B street, this soft-spoken woman told us that she and her partner choose to live on the street; it suits their lifestyle. A product of California’s foster care system, she revealed to us she came from a difficult and abusive childhood.

 

A woman with medium hair in a striped red shirt smiles into the camera, her hands folded beneath her chin.
Some people do make it. After losing everything and raising her kids on the street, a trip to the emergency room finally brought her the important help she needs to survive. She is now living in an apartment in South Sacramento, thanks to Dignity Health’s innovative program Housing with Dignity, operated by Lutheran Social Services.

 

A woman in a floral top and her hair in a bun turns toward the camera, her face touching with her black and white dog's face.
Living under the freeway with her dogs, this sweet woman told us the jobs she’s qualified for will not pay for housing. When she did find housing, it was so far away from her job, she wasn’t able to get back and forth to work without a car. There were young men doing heroin just 10 or 15 feet from our photographer when he took this photo, and all her dog wanted was for our photographer to throw the tennis ball and play.

 

An older man in flannel looks into the camera as smoke blows out of his nose.
This is Moody, whom we visited several times on his K Street sidewalk home. With significant mental health issues, Moody now has blood clots in his feet that limit his mobility. Navigators have found housing for Moody several times over the years, but he’s returned to the streets every time. A sweet man to talk to, our photographer’s heart just breaks for him. With untreated mental illness, improving Moody’s quality of life seems unlikely.

 

An older man with short hair sits in a camp chair in front of a tent and bike trailers.
Living on the American River Parkway for over 10 years, this man had obvious mental and physical health conditions. The navigator we were with revealed they’ve been trying unsuccessfully for years to get him a California ID. This simple step would start the process of getting him the social services and care he needs.
Searching For Hope