Teaching Me To Love With No Boundaries

Annabelle started her journey with Mustard Seed last year as a Jesuit Volunteer where she embraced the Jesuit values of: spirituality, a simple lifestyle, community living, and social justice.

The Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) is the largest lay Catholic full-time volunteer program in the world. They aim to aspire the creation of a more just and hopeful world. Therefore, this service program "engages passionate young people in vital service with poor communities, fostering the growth of leaders committed to faith in action"(JVC).

Annabelle has remained with Mustard Seed as a student resource specialist. Therefore, she tests all the students that come to Mustard Seed to see where they are at academically. From there, Annabelle works with the teachers in developing an appropriate academic curriculum for the students to follow throughout their time at Mustard Seed, so that they are as prepared as possible for when they enroll into public school (i.e. tutoring).

She also attends Sacramento County's homeless task force meetings with homeless liaisons to discuss ways to give children who are experiencing homelessness the necessary resources and tools to receive a successful education. 

Below you will find Annabelle's reflection on a family that taught her how to love with no boundaries. 


Driving the children to and from their motels was one of the biggest highlights for me as a JV last year. I had the opportunity to drive a family of 5 for three months – a family that lifted me up and added onto the miracles, love, and compassion of Mustard Seed that I had felt the very first day I started working there. This family of 5 was always so incredibly excited to go to school and had such a strong family bond that was so visible from a mile away. I vividly remember during our car rides driving through a neighborhood to and from their motel and the children would point out houses that they would hope to one day live in – “That brown house! That could fit all of us!” They were always so optimistic despite the situation they were in because they had each other.

The last day of school was one of the hardest days for me at Mustard Seed. I prepared myself all week for that day, as I knew I was going to have to say my last goodbye to many of the children. In addition to saying goodbye to those children, I also had to brace myself for the goodbye that was going to come for this family of 5. I drove into the parking lot of the SkyRider motel, parked the car, and all 5 children unbuckled, got out of their seats, said their goodbyes and gave me their hugs, and walked into their motel room. And as children, I don’t think it crossed their mind that it may be the last time they saw me. I said bye to mom and drove away and the moment I left, tears fell down my face as reality hit me that that was the last time I was going to see them.

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A week went by and the Mustard Seed summer program started. My co-JV, Emily, and I were in charge of planning a field trip based summer program for the kids and Emily and I were determined to give them the best summer they ever had. As opposed to during the school year where sign-ins are in the front office, sign-ins were now on the playground. We took out playground equipment, had all our forms, and were ready for the summer program to start. Many of the kids during the academic school year saw the flyers that were posted in the office, so they knew about the program. One of the 5 children asked their mom during one car ride if they could attend, but mom did not know how they would get there because transportation was not offered during the summer. I didn’t expect for them to come, but the miracles of Mustard Seed truly played out.

For a brief moment, I went to the PE closet to get a ball out for a child and that was when I heard Emily yell one of the names of the children & this family came running onto the playground. The family I was so sad about saying goodbye to, the family I thought I would never see once more, was there. My heart was so incredibly full.

The last day of summer program was another hard day, but once again, they came through that gate and came running onto the playground. Saying goodbye to this family for a second time was honestly more difficult than the first, but I’m forever grateful for the time I was given with them. This family, those children, changed my life completely. I have been blessed to be a part of their lives and them in mine. And despite how many times I say it, the children at Mustard Seed teach me more than I do to them – so to each child that I have had the privilege of spending time with, thank you for making me smile on my hardest days, for every hug that lifted my spirits up, and most importantly, for teaching me to love with no boundaries. I’m advocating for each one of you always.


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Sowing Seeds

Joquel Hunt is a writer, mother and author of this blog post. She trusts Mustard Seed to take good care of her son and daughter while she runs errands, tries to secure housing and carves out some time for herself to cope with the stress of the family's life. 

I am sure you have heard of Mustard Seed. And no, I am not referring to a seed we sow to produce a plant, although the seeds that are sown at this school will reap a harvest that will indefinitely carry them throughout their entire lives. It’s the little ole school that does “BIG THINGS” everyday.

Everyday parents such as myself sign our kids into this school with the knowledge that our most prized possessions are well cared for. And they are! Seeing is believing with me. The love, the care, the patience, the respect our children receive is unmatched. No wonder my 2 kids love it here!

I am the mother of 6 but only have 1 child in my care currently. This summer I had the privilege of having my 12 year old son Ante’ with me too. You see,  Ante has behavior problems that stems from my past drug addiction, parental neglect, and a mixture of other things. And since I am the only one who understands him, because I also dealt with these same issues as a child, to Mom he came.

Being homeless is extremely difficult especially when there are children we have to provide for along with ourselves. We live it “one day at a time” literally! Some days we win. Some days we feel defeated. But we do not dare give up!

Our children count on us to provide for their needs and they expect us to be there for them. We do it everyday the best way we can. And we leave the rest up to God. His ways are much higher than ours anyhow.  

We sleep in our vans. Our cars. Outside in a tent. In motels. We sleep wherever we can. Sometimes we even sleep on the couches or floors of family members. We bear the load of caring for our children in circumstances such as these while trying hard not to burden them with our  “adult stuff.”

On a day to day basis, we encounter many things on different levels.

Sometimes we parents have difficult mornings and lack the coping skills we need to be able to push beyond the hurt.

We deal with our own children’s whines, tempers, as well as trying to stay strong for ourselves.

We encounter drivers with road rage. We make calls to different agencies asking for help only to hear a no!

We are pushed to deal with a housing program that has funding for us, but puts us through a bunch of unnecessary changes just to say, ‘no you are not approved.’ And the reason most of do not get approved for housing is because the rule of the program is this: either you sleep outside, in your car, or wait to get into a shelter and that’s it. Who wants to continue to sleep outside or in a car? We can’t even rent a motel room and still be qualified for the housing program at the same time.

It takes so much strength, so much courage and an extremely strong will to endure seasons such as the one we homeless families currently find ourselves in. We swallow our pride everyday while trying to hold onto our dignity.

So, when we can go about our day in confidence knowing that our babies are ok, it is a sigh of relief. One less thing we have to stress over.

I am so grateful for these wonderful ladies who pour themselves into the lives of our children effortlessly.

Casey, the Coordinator, who meets and greets us with a smile everyday. She is sweet, patient, caring, and exemplifies love for every single child every single moment she is present. She oversees the care of the School. The children. The volunteers, the donations, as well as the staff, with dignity and honor and trust. Thank you Casey! Every seed you’ve sown shall reap a harvest!

Let us consider for a moment the daily demands of every child with their delicate needs. And still each child is treated equal and fair. There are no favorites here. This is what every staff at this school exemplifies and I am honored to have my children among such a wonderful group of people.

Lucia, she gives herself to those kids freely.  And no one else can take her place. The kids see her first before going into the classroom and see her last before leaving the school. She is strict but patient, tough but loving. She is the one who handles all the intakes when we first enroll our children into Mustard Seed. She assesses each family/child for needs and makes sure they are taken care of.  Upon entry each child receives a pack of underwear, socks, along with a backpack full of supplies. If they need more, just let her know and she will make it happen. Such a rare gift! God bless you!

And let’s not forget about Liana, she does all the paperwork with a smile.

This type of service is needed throughout the world, but as homeless families we are blessed that we get it right where we are. It’s like God’s hands are working through these ladies to make sure our kids are ok so that we parents can be ok.

It takes a special type of person to impact the lives of children through empowerment, enrichment, and care. And that is exactly what our children receive every single day.

Ms. Annabelle and the few others you guys rock too! Good luck on your new journey. And thank you to for caring for our children unconditionally with restrictions or biases. We love you!

Let us recognize Mustard Seed school for all their hard work, dedication to our children, exemplary service and unconditional love. They are truly a Godsend and we are truly blessed and thankful to have them among us.

THANK YOU MUSTARD SEED FAMILY!  

                                       YOU GUYS ARE THE BOMB.COM!

Written by Joquel Hunt

Reba: a survivor, chocked-full of motherly wisdom

Many Maryhouse guests go to Reba when they are in need of someone to talk to. 

 “They call me Mama Reba,” Reba said. “They come to me to talk and I listen. If they ask for advice, I give suggestions. I’m very spiritual. I have the spirit of God in me and I take that seriously and so do they. Sometimes I look into their eyes and hold their hands and let them know that they are beautiful and to smile because God loves them.”

Reba has experienced homelessness for almost a year. 

 To Reba, Maryhouse is a beacon of safety. Here, she is able to access a warm shower, hygiene products and clothing.

 “I love being able to talk to all of the staff – Miss Debbie, Shannon, Judy, Hailey, Marlena, Ella and Kaylee,” she said. “I love talking to all of the ladies and having them watch out for me.”

 “People don’t respect a woman who is homeless in any capacity,” Reba said. “Society expects women to know how to do everything, but being on the streets is really hard. It’s hard to find a place to sleep, to find a place to eat and to find a bathroom to use. The simple things are hard.”

 She said that women experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault and often go about their days in a state of constant vigilance. They sleep with one eye open --  steeped in fear. 

 “I’ve been fortunate and I have been blessed because I have warriors and angels who protect me,” Reba said.

According to Reba, women experiencing homelessness who are physically or mentally disabled are extremely vulnerable on the streets. Their small assortment of personal belongings including their money, ids, clothes, cell phones, food stamps and mementos are often stolen from them. 

 “I see a lot of things that make my heart bleed,” she said. “People don’t have to be mean to us, but they are. They are mean to us because of the way we dress and sometimes the way we speak. It’s hard to see people get spit on or cussed out. They don’t know what we go through to get from point A to point B. If you don’t have money to get on the bus or take a taxi, then you have to jump on the train to get where you need to go and if you don’t have your ticket, you get a ticket. If people would be generous enough to pay for a packet of bus passes and drop them off at Maryhouse that would help a lot. It would help us go to doctors appointments, go to the grocery store or see our kids.”

 At Loaves, Reba can get breakfast and lunch as well as new clothes each week.

 “I don’t have to ask for food,” she said. “I don’t have to ask for clothes and during the day, I don’t have to ask for protection and I can lay my head down at night and know I am very protected by God and good street people.”

 “Loaves & Fishes is a blessing,” Reba said. “It’s how Jesus started – feeding the people -- and for Loaves & Fishes to be named after that is a beacon of light to me. It is so important for people who are hungry to spend the day here and to get whatever supplies they need and help as far as housing advocacy, food and mental health services.”

 Before she started to experience homelessness, Reba worked as an executive assistant in Dallas, Texas and lived with her daughter and two grandchildren. Her dream is to live with them again.

 “You can’t take what you have for granted because you can be one paycheck away from being out here and if you are not the kind of person who can adjust to change, you won’t make it,” she said. “You have to be able to adjust to change.”

 

Fathers are homeless too

Doug Winter captured this portrait of Friendship Park guest, Andre. 

Doug Winter captured this portrait of Friendship Park guest, Andre. 

In honor of Father's Day, Loaves & Fishes celebrated its guests who are fathers.  

Gail Filter, Doug Winter and Theodore Goodwin captured stunning pictures of Loves & Fishes guests and provided them with two copies of their likeness -- one to keep and one to send to their loved ones. (Keep scrolling to see their beautiful portraits).

Joe Walker livened up Friendship park with his piano playing and singing. And, staff and volunteers provided guests with cards to send to their dads and children. 

"It is such a privilege to be able to recognize these men who perhaps haven’t been in contact with their family for years," Hannah Ozanian, the Director of Friendship Park said. "You see it in their eyes when you elevate them and ask them to get their picture taken professionally. It is such an honor for them to realize that they deserve to have their picture taken as much as any other father." 

Many guests at Loaves & Fishes are estranged from their children because they've been surviving on the streets for so long. And many serve as fathers to those who are young and vulnerable and also experiencing homelessness. 

"Father's Day is an opportunity is to be with our guests who cannot reach out to their family and to make them feel as if they are family," Goerge Kohrummel, the assistant director of Friendship Park said. "Our guests get to share their day and their thoughts with each other."

Check out these pictures of our guests who we are so lucky to say belong to our family at Loaves & Fishes: 

Ryan captured by Doug Winter

Ryan captured by Doug Winter

Robert as photographed by Doug Winter. 

Robert as photographed by Doug Winter. 

John captured by Doug Winter.

John captured by Doug Winter.

Manny photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Manny photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Michael photographed by Gale Filter

Michael photographed by Gale Filter

Anthony captured by Theodore Goodwin

Anthony captured by Theodore Goodwin

Calvin photographed by Doug Winter

Calvin photographed by Doug Winter

Kenneth photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Kenneth photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Herb captured by Doug Winter

Herb captured by Doug Winter

Gustavus captured by Theodore Goodwin

Gustavus captured by Theodore Goodwin

Cesar as captured by Doug Winter. 

Cesar as captured by Doug Winter. 

Felipe photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Felipe photographed by Theodore Goodwin

Felix photographed by Doug Winter. 

Felix photographed by Doug Winter. 

Gerald captured by Theodore Goodwin. 

Gerald captured by Theodore Goodwin. 

Floyd captured by Doug Winter. 

Floyd captured by Doug Winter. 

 

 

Maryhouse's Mother's Day Celebration

On May 20th. Maryhouse celebrated mother's day.

The hospitality shelter's Mother's Day brunch was hosted by the National Charity League, a national philanthropic organization which aims to cultivate mother-daughter relationships through community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. 

The celebration which took place in the garden behind Maryhouse was especially sweet for the guests of Maryhouse who often exist in spaces that are traumatic and full of crisis. At the brunch, guests had the opportunity to slowdown and savor the simple indulgence of a celebration -- a toast to their roles as mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. They were greeted with corsages and treated to a delectable feast composed of french toast casserole, egg casserole, buttery croissants, bacon, muffins, cupcakes and fresh sliced fruit. 

They were waited on by staff and volunteers. 

"At our mother's day celebration, our guests are just generally treated like the wonderful women that they are," Shannon Stevens, the director of Maryhouse said. "It is nice to have a day where our only job is to be present in a celebratory manner. We wait on guests, laugh and tell stories. Unlike routine days, when we are doing more intervention, the brunch is a real chance to slow down and enjoy everyone around us. It's also incredible to have the opportunity to recognize the worthiness and radiance of our guests."

The guests' portraits were taken and they received gift bags with sunglasses, body spray, make up and a gift card.  

"This is amazing! I've never been treated like a princess before," one guest said. 

Volunteers from the National Charity League provided a wonderful Mother's Day feast for the guests of Maryhouse. 

Volunteers from the National Charity League provided a wonderful Mother's Day feast for the guests of Maryhouse.