At Saint no more

Michelle Steeb drew accolades from some, criticism from others for her high-barrier approach to housing homeless women

An embattled figure from Sacramento’s nonprofit world recently stepped down from her leadership position after a 12-year run of helping homeless women and children with strategies that were increasingly scrutinized.

Saint John’s Program for Real Change CEO Michelle Steeb resigned following a decision to move to Texas, the charity announced April 26, one week before participating in Thursday’s Big Day of Giving.

Steeb was responsible for developing a seven-month job-training program for homeless women that required sobriety before they could be accepted and sheltered, sometimes with their children. Offering counseling to domestic violence victims and family reunification assistance are also elements of the program that drew praise from some women who graduated from it.

But Saint John’s has also been in rocky financial waters in recent years, which several county reports suggest stems from the nonprofit’s high barriers and relatively low number of clients. Since 2017, Saint John’s lost some longtime grants from the county and missed out on other public grants. In late 2017, county officials also audited Saint John’s over problems with its recordkeeping around grants for employment training.

Despite the turmoil, Saint John’s board chairman Phil Telgenhoff called Steeb’s departure a moment of “sadness and gratitude” in a statement, adding the organization was “deeply indebted for the legacy she leaves behind.”

Telgenhoff said Steeb would stay on as a consultant as COO Marc Cawdrey took over as interim CEO.

In a public letter, Steeb reflected on her years of working with struggling women and children.

“We teach them to be positive parental role models for their families, how to gain and maintain employment and most importantly, how to become the people they were intended to be,” Steeb wrote.