The house that Greg built

Greg Bunker brought hope to the poor for more than 20 years

Information about memorial services for Greg Bunker may be found at

“Give ’em hope.” Gregory Bunker was often heard to utter that phrase around the Francis House, the homeless resource center he ran on C Street. Bunker died of a heart attack on December 28 during a bike ride in Santa Barbara, where he was vacationing with his family over the holidays. He was 62 years old.

Bunker led Francis House’s mission of compassion and help for Sacramento’s poor for 20 years. He would also often say, “A bed for every head—365 days a year.”

“When the city closed Tent City in [2009], Greg said that was unacceptable, and he and Sister Libby galvanized what would become Safe Ground, and it still stands today,” said Forrest Reed, Bunker’s second-in-command at Francis House.

Safe Ground Sacramento—a homeless advocacy rights organization—has met Wednesdays for the last year at Francis House to strategize in its attempt to secure a permanent piece of property within the city for its homeless citizens to lay their head without fear of retribution from city officials. And the group has a lawsuit against the city, challenging its anti-camping ordinance.

Sister Libby Fernandez, the tiny but indomitable face of Loaves & Fishes, was one of Bunker’s closest friends and fellow activists. “Greg was a ferocious leader, and a gentle spiritual giant,” said Fernandez.

The morning after Bunker’s death, Fernandez and Reed led about 60 homeless clients, community members and Francis House staff in a prayer circle, where they took time to remember Bunker and what his life had meant to them, Reed said.

“He was my buddy—one of my top five friends in the world,” Fernandez said, recalling how she and Bunker shared their love of biking to work and City Hall together.

A big bear of a man with an easy laugh, Bunker’s personal and professional life was on the upswing at the time of his death, those closest to him say.

“The day that he left for 10 days of vacation, he came into my office and told me what he was so proud about,” Reed said. “On a personal level, he’d gone back to school and aced his first college class, creative writing, at [San Francisco] State. So he was wonderfully happy about that.”

On the professional side, Francis House just had an audit which showed the center had helped 30,000 people in 2010. That included securing 140 jobs for clients and sheltering 1,900 people in hotel rooms.

“Greg was much bigger than the executive director of Francis House,” Reed said. “He would go out of his way to do whatever it took to bring people to self-sufficiency. The main thing I learned from him is that Greg loved everybody.

“I recently read Mayor [Kevin] Johnson’s top goals for 2011, and nowhere did it say ‘ending homelessness’ or ‘creating overflow shelter,’” Reed continued. “Greg would have found that unacceptable.”

“He had a passion for people,” said Tina Reynolds, owner of Uptown Studios and fellow Safe Ground board member. “He wouldn’t accept the bad treatment from government that homeless people would get. It will take a lot of people to replace him.”

Bunker is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and sons Jesse and Simon.