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Homeless Musicians


A symphony of city life is the music of most homeless people.  A minister in Sacramento, California, has discovered that when the homeless pick up a musical instrument, they briefly leave life on the street and enter a world of possibilities. Kim Riemland reports.


(Locator: Sacramento, CA)

Follow the music upstairs at North Sacramento United Methodist Church, and you’ll feel right at home.

“This is where God hangs out on Wednesdays.”

Every Wednesday afternoon, the church hosts a homeless jam session. It’s a chance for homeless and formerly homeless musicians to step off the streets, and “belong.”

Lottie Smith/Formerly Homeless: “I walked through these doors and this place greeted me. It has such an atmosphere here, such a soul of its own.”

Since Lonnie Smith first came here three years ago, he’s quit drugs and alcohol, moved into an apartment, and says he found a “family” here at church. His change began with a guitar on his knee, and friends – who understood the pain of homelessness – all around him.

The Rev. Brandon Austin/North Sacramento United Methodist Church: “People I think naturally love music. It transforms people.”

Reverend Brandon Austin grabs his guitar and joins the jam session whenever he can. He sees this music ministry changing lives.

The Rev. Brandon Austin: “Those who are finding life difficult, and when they’re in difficult circumstances, when they play their music, it brings a joy and their spirits just soar. They feel inspired and it’s inspiring to see that.”

Life on the streets is a struggle.

David/Homeless Man : “It’s a battle, every day is a battle.”

But within these walls they can find peace, at least for a few hours.

Lottie Smith: “We have a great time.  We bond. Everybody walks away feeling a little better and able to make it through one more day.”


Jam session participants occasionally perform at church services. Several have become regular church attenders, even members.   You can reach Pastor Austin at

Also see: Church offers homeless musicians place to jam, find support.

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