After a car accident left her battered and briefly in a coma, Bobbie Wooten was in a tailspin. She had already faced hardships as a young mother and began to question her purpose.
“I did some soul searching,” Ms. Wooten shared. “I began to ask, ‘Why am I here?”
“I’m a regular person who just wants to be able to wake up and make it and take care of my family,” she continued.
Ms. Wooten also takes care of the community as founder of Feed Sacramento Homeless (FSH), a non-profit agency providing mobile resources. It was born in 2013 after a classmate at Sacramento City College mentioned his plan to make sandwiches and give them out for Thanksgiving. She expanded on the idea and took to social media for support. In two weeks time, they had an army of volunteers and enough food to feed, well, a small army. They drove around the streets of South Sacramento and ended downtown, near the Loaves & Fishes shelter. But even those 100 full meals weren’t enough.
“I saw the need and it overwhelmed me,” Ms. Wooten shared. “It really took me to a dark place emotionally.”
Light, and the answer to her introspection, came through providing meals, daily essentials — and dignity on a continual basis.
“I know a smile and truly showing somebody some compassion … looking them in the eye like they are a person and letting them know that they are being seen, that can be enough motivation and inspiration for somebody to get off the street,” Ms. Wooten said.
She enjoys connecting people to resources offered by like-minded organizations.
“On a daily, we can receive anywhere from five to 10 requests for items that are needed, whether it’s from community partners or clients themselves,” Ms. Wooten shared.
A partner recently placed 10 people into a warming shelter, but they didn’t have sleeping bags, so they called her and she was able to provide them.
“It varies, but every day it’s about getting the resources out to the unhoused, especially right now with it being so cold.”
FSH hosts popup events, passing out coats, blankets, tents, and tarps. The events will soon include workshops ranging from business and budgeting to keeping safe if stopped by the police.
“We provide the food, they need that and that’s a great deal for the basic needs to be met, but now it’s about, ‘What else can we provide? And what educational skills can we offer to you so you can become self-sufficient?”
Pop ups are held every third Sunday on Del Paso Boulevard. They’re usually on Stockton Boulevard on the fourth Sunday, but that may change, due to continued sweeps of the encampments there. The pandemic has also changed things.
“The need is far greater than prior to COVID,” Ms. Wooten said. “There’s a lot of people who lost their jobs. I was going out every day from August to December, five days a week. Same encampments. I would see these new faces and they’d run to the truck and they’d be like, ‘Yeah we’re trying to learn how it works out here,’ ‘This is the first time we’ve been in this situation,’ ‘We are on a fixed income and the rent went up and then COVID came and my wife lost her job.’ It’s just so disheartening what’s going on right now.
“There are families out here with autistic children living in campers,” she shared. “There are veterans who have fought for this country and don’t have anywhere to live. How do you explain that? How do you rationalize that in the world today?”
The need is great and so is the toll it can take on service providers.
“We’re out there every day and we’re risking our lives, or our health, and we go back to our families. It’s a balance. Mentally, it does become challenging and it does wear on you as ‘essential workers’ or somebody who works in this industry. But how do you stop working, just because COVID is here? These people still need to eat. These people still need hygiene and these people still need shoes.”
Local officials, Ms. Wooten says, must do more.
“If the City and the mayor didn’t know who is really doing the work before COVID, they know now. They all see how much this work is needed and they see what it takes for us people working on the front lines to continue to provide for those individuals, so I don’t see why they don’t call us all in and let us figure this out in a forum that is nothing but professional, but definitely open and provide us with the resources and allocate the funding so that we can truly truly make a difference out here.”
By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The Sacramento OBSERVER introduces a special series, “Sistahs on the Frontlines,” acknowledging and highlighting the work that Black women are doing as “essential workers” on the frontlines, furthering the causes of the community. READ MORE