Stark Contrast - Which city is better served by its columnist?

I am so saddened by the lack of compassion in Marcos Breton's Sunday column: The price downtown Sacramento is paying for Mayor Steinberg’s homeless crusade

Contrast it with Steve Lopez's column in the Los Angeles Times a day later: A true L.A. hero: For people dying on L.A. streets, he offers help, and he won't take no for an answer

Los Angeles has approved a $1.2 million dollar housing bond to help homeless people and is about to vote on a $.25 cent sales tax for homeless services. Businesses and developers strongly support the measure: Developers join the campaign for quarter-cent sales tax to fund homeless services

Here in Sacramento, Mayor Steinberg is fighting to win approval for an allocation of housing choice vouchers and crafting an ambitious mix of government (federal, state and local) and private (Sutter Health and others) funding to provide supportive services for homeless and at risk people.

Breton offers no constructive suggestions; Steve Lopez captures the humanity and suffering of the destitute on the streets and supports Los Angeles bond and sales tax. Which city is better served by its columnist?

Sacramento deserves better.

Joan Burke
Director of Advocacy
Loaves & Fishes

Photography and the Looking-Glass Self

Collectively, we know them as "the homeless." Most of us never speak to them and avoid making eye contact. -Cynthia Hubert, Sacramento Bee

The looking-glass self is a social psychological concept that states a person's self grows out of society's interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. In other words, how we see ourselves does not come from who we really are, but rather from how we believe others see us.

For me, photography is an instrument of change. For example, I firmly believe that images have the power to alter the viewer’s perception of those who are homeless. More recently, I have reached the conclusion that strong images can also change how the homeless see themselves.

On the second Saturday of the month you will find me at Loaves and Fishes shooting homeless people and their pets. This is when the University of California Davis Mercer Veterinary Clinic provides the pets of homeless individuals with basic veterinary care.

I try to capture in “family portraits”, the comfort and joy that dogs bring to their homeless owners. After processing the images, the pet owners are provided with the pictures I have taken. For many owners one picture is a more than a thousand words. A single picture is also a looking-glass for owners to see the bonds of love and companionship that exist between themselves and their pets.


Second Saturday Puppy Love


Puppy love. That’s what this story is about.

Puppy love, the kind that I speak of, is pretty simple: it is the intense bonds that exist between dogs and their homeless owners. For many homeless, dogs provide the unconditional love, support and even therapy needed to cope with the hardships of life on the streets. 

Woman in Tent.jpg

On the second Saturday of every month, no matter the weather, you will find Sacramento’s homeless and their dogs queued up at the University of California Davis’ Mercer Veterinary Clinic next to Loaves and Fishes’ new Friendship Park. Lines can can be long, but for the homeless the wait is well worth it.

The Mercer Veterinary Clinic for the Homeless is a program operated by student volunteers of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Since 1992, the Clinic has provided the pets of homeless individuals with basic veterinary care, access to emergency care, and pet food — all free of charge. Dogs are the primary patients far outnumbering cats. Dogs with medical problems requiring surgery, radiology or other advanced care, are referred to Clinic approved veterinarians in the community.

In My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals (2013), Sociology professor Leslie Irvine provides crucial insight to the central role that dogs play in the lives of some of the homeless community. “For many homeless their dog is more than a companion. In many cases the dog is their only family.” Dogs give many homeless something to live for. Those who work at the Mercer homeless animal clinic and Loaves and Fishes know this.

Over a period of three months, I was at the Clinic on second Saturdays photographing the interaction that occurs among UC Davis veterinarians, student clinic volunteers, the homeless and their dogs. In these images, you can see, and perhaps feel, the healing power, comfort, joy and companionship that dogs bring to their homeless owners.


Christmas Day 2016 in black, white, and a little color

 It’s Christmas morning and I’m at Loaves and Fishes to photograph the holiday meal. It is really cold! There is no thermostat for adjusting the heat when you are homeless and living on the street. Many homeless are beginning to stir in nearby areas, rolling up thin sleeping bags and crawling out from makeshift shelters constructed of cardboard and plastic sheeting.

The dining room doors will soon open. A hot ham and turkey dinner is being served, Christmas stockings given to guests, and all receive warm holiday greetings from Loaves and Fishes staff and volunteers. Today, the dining room also provides shelter, a short respite from the bitter cold.

I find that black and white images of the homeless speak loudly about both conditions and needs. I also feel that in some instances images provide windows to the heart, soul and minds of those photographed.

-Gale Filter

Christmas Brunch at Maryhouse

Every Christmas season, Loaves & Fishes hosts activities to celebrate our guests, many of whom have nowhere to go for the holidays. We believe that everyone deserves to celebrate during this time, and do our best to help make the holiday season a bit brighter for our guests.

With the help of generous individuals and groups, Loaves & Fishes is able to provide toys, Christmas, stockings, warm clothing, and hot meals to those who would otherwise go without this Christmas.

A very special event that we hold each year at Loaves & Fishes is our Maryhouse Christmas Brunch. During brunch, we are able to honor the women and families who visit Maryhouse, our daytime shelter for women and children. This year, volunteers and staff served a delicious hot meal to guests, and photographers from the community volunteered to take photographs of women and families. Our guests were then given photographs to keep, or share with loved ones. 

Below is a gallery of photographs from this year's Christmas Brunch. Special thanks to Gale Filter, Theodore Goodwin, and Doug Winter for volunteering their time and talent to Loaves & Fishes and our guests!