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Program Gives Homeless Women A Chance At New Life, But Wait List Is Long

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sheila Torres lived on the streets for three years, sleeping during the day and digging in dumpsters at night.

"I call it recycling, to get cans and to make money to buy alcohol the next day," said Torres.

But when her campsite burned down, Sheila was fired up for change. She stumbled upon St. John's Program for Real Change in Downtown Sacramento.

"My life started here," she said.

The shelter for homeless women provides a roof and routine. They're taught how to wake up early and make a bed. But it's not as easy as it sounds.

"You have to take care of yourself first—mentally, physically, spiritually," said another woman in the program.

Many homeless moms walk in with their children, and one of the first things they learn is how to get them ready for school.

"These women here want to provide for their children, but they don't have the housing, education, and what St. John's does is provide that every step of the way," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-California).

Matsui was one of many guests invited to see the shelter expand, after two years of renovations.

St. John's can now house 270 women, but the wait list isn't shrinking. More than 430 women and children want to get in, but can't.

"It's so scary to me how many more women and children need the kinds of services provide here," said Executive Director Michele Steev.

She's referring to services Mayor Darrell Steinberg has promised to deliver.

"We need many approaches to solve the problem and the St. John's is a very important part of our menu of options to solve the problem," said Steinberg.

For Sheila, the focus now staying on the right path and helping her friends open the door to a new life.

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