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.

Friendship Park Breakfast Recipe

Each weekday at 7:00 am, coffee is served to the about 300 guests in Friendship Park.

Everyday, Friendship park powers through 60 gallons of Folgers coffee, 10 lbs of sugar and 10 lbs of powdered cream.

At 7:30 am, volunteers start serving breakfast to the guests.

Over the past year and a half, more than 40 different volunteer groups have come together to serve over 45,000 meals. The groups prepare bagged breakfasts before coming to Friendship park which often include oatmeal, sandwiches, fruit, bagels and breakfast rolls. Today about 270 hard boiled eggs were distributed in less than an hour.

It is a smooth and efficient operation thanks to the Loaves & Fishes staff who distribute breakfast tickets and keep the line moving. A special thanks to Elk Grove Resistance and Mercy Hospital Emergency Room volunteers who allowed me to shoot behind the lines. Great folks doing a great thing.

Samuel’s Story

Samuel Cunningham, a current guest at Loaves and Fishes, has been homeless for the past six months.

He moved to Sacramento from Nebraska after he rekindled his relationship with his father who he has been estranged from for 27 years.

In Sacramento, Samuel pursued a welding, machining and engineering program, found love and got to know his father, a former Hell’s Angel who now is clean-shaven and works at a thrift store. Samuel supported himself by driving Lyft and rented an apartment in South Sacramento.

When he wanted his fiancé, Kaya, to move in with him, he had an argument with his roommate. After that, his car was stolen along with his social security card and birth certificate.

The event spelled the couple’s descent into homelessness and the disintegration of Samuel’s relationship with his roommate.

For two months, the couple lived out of a tent that Samuel’s father purchased for them in South Sacramento and quickly ran through their savings and monthly allotment of Calfresh dollars.

“When you are homeless, you don’t have a kitchen to cook in so it is amazing how fast your money for food goes,” he said. “We didn’t have any place to store food so we’d just go to the gas station and the dollar store and buy small packages of lunch meat, loaves of bread, snacks and drinks. When we ran through food stamps, I started collecting cans. It was pretty rough.”

A few of the couple’s friends would invite them over for dinner in exchange for Samuel’s mechanic services.

“I have 20 years of experience as a drywall contractor, but no one will hire me without an ID or a birth certificate,” Samuel said.

Samuel has worked since he was fourteen years old. He has often worked construction jobs during the day and then managed a variety of businesses including a McDonalds, a gas station, a bar and a movie theatre in the evening throughout his career.

“I was raised by my step-dad who was a Navy Seal, he taught me the merit of hard work,” Samuel said. “I’d love to take any job I could get even though I haven’t worked for minimum wage since I was 14 years old.”

Samuel and Kaya didn’t discover Loaves and Fishes until they had lived on the streets for months. The discovery of the homeless survival center has made their lives easier.

“The features that Loaves and Fishes offers are really awesome,” Samuel said. “It so wonderful to be able to get a backpack, camping gear, tarps and coffee at Friendship park. A lot of the staff is really friendly and truly goes the extra mile for you. Cycles for Hope  comes here to fix bikes and occasionally gives bikes away.”

Through the Street Sheet, a homeless resource guide, that Loaves and Fishes hands out, Samuel and Kaya have learned how to maximize their resources. On weekdays, they get breakfast at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, lunch in the dining room of Loaves and Fishes and dinner at Union Gospel Mission. They also grab food to eat on the weekends at food pantries.

“We only qualify for $185 Calfresh dollars, but if you manage that money wisely, it can last a long time,” he said. “We shop at Grocery Outlet and the 99 cent store to save money.”

“I joke around and say that being homeless is kind of like being on vacation, but a very sucky vacation,” he said. “You don’t have worry about bills, but you have to deal with some people who are difficult people. I have OCD so I like everything to be neat and organized, but not everybody feels the same way that I do. The police just moved us from the river to a lot behind the casino and said that if we keep it clean, we won’t get arrested for being there. I police the area and pick up the mess that other people make and because of that sometimes people get angry at me for being in their space. If you get camping tickets, you have to do community service and after so many tickets, they take you to jail and you can’t get any of your stuff back for 90 days. I feel lucky that I’ve never gotten a camping ticket.”

Samuel likes to keep busy by engineering and designing bike carts. He recently built a 6-foot-long bike cart that has a dog kennel in the back. He charges others $25 an hour to build the carts which he can quickly assemble.

He is currently working with a navigator from Sacramento Steps Forward who he met at Loaves and Fishes. The navigator is helping Samuel acquire his social security card and birth certificate.

A volunteer’s Rhine River cruise inspires portraits of Europe’s homeless

Gale is Loaves & Fishes consummate photographer. He takes pictures of our guests and people experiencing homelessness throughout Sacramento. His photographs ask that we not look away from the crisis of homelessness perpetually unfolding in our city. Two weeks ago, he went on a Rhine River cruise with his wife and, while in port, photographed people experiencing homelessness in various European cities. The subjects featured in this blog post may speak different languages, but they all know the desperate feeling of what it is like to be without shelter. Below is Gale’s commentary on the photographs that he took and of course, pictorial glimpses into his journey:

I took the photo above a few weeks ago outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, France. I think the image captures what Mother Teresa observed about the homeless, “(T)he greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. . . (I)t is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience.”

This May marks a year I have spent shooting images of the homeless at Loaves and Fishes and the streets of Sacramento.  No matter where my travels and camera take me, there is a constant theme that I find: the homeless are invisible—for the most part ignored and denied by the community they live in. Many are scared and scarred without resources to counter the misfortunes of living on the streets.

The following images were taken at the end of April in cities and towns along the Rhine River.

Corey & Jackie

Corey is devoted to his Jack Russell terrier named Jackie.

“She’s my baby. I got her a year and a half ago. I kept calling the SPCA to see if they had a Jack Russell Terrier and they called me and said that they had a dog that I might be interested in. I met her and I almost started crying. I lost my other dog to cancer and meeting her was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It’s my love and joy to protect her. I would give her all of my clothes just to keep her warm.”

Corey has been homeless for a year and a half. His mom was a school teacher and his dad was a pilot. For years, he worked as a nurse.

“I’ve been coming here for a month and seven days,” he said about Loaves & Fishes.

“Sister Libby is the nicest lady in the whole world, she says that in about a month she is going to take some time off and start a bicycle ministry. I’m going to help her.”