Ron’s Triumph

At Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, a past guest’s triumphs are always a cause to celebrate. It can sometimes be difficult to stay optimistic amongst so much need and so few supportive resources, so listening to our former guests’ success stories helps motivate and inspire us to welcome each guest, new or returning, with hope for that wonderful day when homelessness is behind them for good.

We recently had an update from Ron, a former guest who struggled on and off with homelessness for fourteen years. During his experience with homelessness he relied on Loaves & Fishes to help him meet his most immediate survival needs. He had counseling appointments at Genesis, read in the Library, and had hearty lunches at the Dining Room, which helped him focus his attention on finding employment.

In 2017, Ron was introduced to the Rapid Rehousing Program. He and a friend got a 2-bedroom house rent-free for six months, after which they would cover the rent. With housing secured, Ron was able to gain and maintain employment.

In sharing his story, Ron wants people to understand that homelessness is a complex problem. There are many different kinds of people that find themselves homeless. While some have addictions or mental health problems, some “just had a bad break or two.”

We are thankful to Ron for updating us on his life, and giving us his perspective on the issues surrounding homelessness. We know that no one understands the situation better than those who have lived it.

Anthony & Michelle

Doug Winter, a professional photographer, comes to Loaves & Fishes once a month to take beautiful portraits of our guests. When he has time, he likes to interview the subjects of his photographs to capture the story behind their eyes.

Anthony and Michelle started their relationship four years ago on the streets of Sacramento. Together, they have helped each other overcome a drug addiction and agonizing ongoing circumstances.

At the age of four, Michelle was severely burned in a house fire started by her cousin who was playing with matches. She was burned over 80% of her body and was in a coma for a week due to the smoke inhalation she sustained in the house fire. A doctor told her parents she would never walk again.

“I heard the doctors say to my mother, ‘Your daughter will never be able to walk again.’” Michelle contemplatively reflects and continues, “That’s when God said to me: “Get up!’ So, I got up, grabbed my IV and walked over to my father.”

Slowly, over the years, Michelle, a college educated mother of two, was forced into a wheelchair due to the lifelong injuries she sustained from the house fire and other serious medical problems she battles daily.

Anthony and Michelle had been living together in a tent but their tent was recently burned down. Michelle points to racism, “…because after the tent was burned, one of my hooded sweatshirts had rope with a noose around the neck of it and it was set on top of the burned debris.”

“There are a lot of racist people out there but we all bleed the same color,” Michelle says softly.

“Everything was gone,” Anthony explains. He told Michelle on the day their tent burned down, “We can’t worry about it because, it’s just material things, and we [just need to] pick it up and keep going.”

A survivor of many thefts, Anthony explains that people continually steal Michelle’s wheelchair. It’s been stolen seven times. Anthony explained that thieves have taken her wheelchair to the recycle center and try to recycle it for cash.

A few months ago, Anthony proposed to Michelle in “the garden,” a place that is special to both of them.  They plan on getting married but disagree on the timing of their wedding. Anthony wants to get a job, find a place to live and provide nice things for Michelle.  He envisions them leaving the streets when they are married.

Anthony’s social security card has been stolen many times and was stolen again recently. He is in the process of getting another card so he can start work at a restaurant and reach his goals before they marry.

Michelle pulls the Safe Grounds schedule from her purse, and unfolds the paper to see where they need to find shelter later in the evening. Safe Grounds is an outdoor site where homeless can camp legally. Anthony and Michelle bounce between Safe Grounds and Winter Sanctuary, a seasonal emergency shelter program sponsored by the County of Sacramento through the Department of Human Assistance.

Based on all her ongoing medical conditions, a doctor recently told Michelle she had seven months to live. Michelle reflects on this and conveys thoughtfully, “Only God can tell me when I’m going to die.”

A Tale of Two Communities

“The greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realize that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.” Mother Teresa

This is a Thanksgiving story about two communities: Sacramento’s homeless community, what I call “Second City;” and, Loaves & Fishes, a sanctuary for homeless men, women, and children seeking survival services. Second City is where poverty, loneliness, fear and despair are found. Loaves & Fishes is where Sacramento’s homeless are welcomed and treated as wanted guests.

November 21, 2017. I am at Loaves & Fishes to shoot the Sacramento Blues Society Thanksgiving concert in Friendship Park. Vocalist Val Starr opens with “We’re here to take the blues away.” Today, more than 700 homeless Loaves & Fishes’ guests will be fed and entertained.

No doubt about it. Today is special. It is what Val Starr says it is, “you listen to the blues to get rid of the blues.” The images below evidence the magic of the blues cutting through “the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.” For me this is a fun time and a time to be thankful. I get to listen to great music and capture images of Loaves & Fishes staff, volunteers, musicians, and homeless guests enjoying themselves.