“I’m here! Thank you!”

Today was my first day as Director at Maryhouse. I woke up feeling the same as any other day, tired because I dislike mornings and fiercely craving a pot of coffee. When I arrived on campus I was greeted by three of our very vulnerable guests, one right after the other; I’d like to say that I was happy to see them but the truth is I thought, “Oh this means today is going to be interesting.” Natasha, a guest I love deeply but can no longer serve as a result of the severity of her illness and addiction was walking barefoot, tip toeing around rocks, hands in fists held tightly to her chest. She was winking, as she often does and mumbling to herself. Whitney, a tall woman suffering with severe mental health symptoms was standing by the door cursing, “Good Morning, Whitney.” Her response was all expletives, wishing my demise. I am convinced that the Whitney deep inside doesn’t actually want me off this planet, but some days it’s hard to tell. Stephanie was on all fours looking into a dryer vent, growling at a staff person trying to help her. This is not a bizarre scenario at Maryhouse, it’s normal. Not the way it’s supposed to be but it is normal.

I continued with the thought that today was going to be hard and sent good vibes toward the kitchen hoping there was fresh coffee so that I could face the day humbly, openly, honestly and enthusiastically.

Coffee in hand I continued the morning at my desk relatively incident free with small moments of congratulations or comment about today being a notable day for me. I put out mini fires and answered emails but I still sat in this feeling that the day was going to be “interesting.”

My feelings made me prepare for the worst but what happened instead was this:

Linda, the sweetest 50-something year old woman who suffers from auditory hallucinations regularly was welcomed back to Maryhouse after having to take a break for behavioral issues. Linda can often be found on our back patio screaming at the top of her lungs about the children she lost in a traumatic incident that she cannot articulate. She yells loudly and aggressively at the voices that taunt her, she can’t help it. Linda suffers. Linda suffers every day at nearly every moment and she does so outside, alone and cold.

But TODAY!

She walked in the doors, she smiled and said, “Heeeeeey girl! I’m here! Thank you!” As she thanked me she pointed in my direction and I felt what she must have, love and appreciation.

Maryhouse is a home during the day to women and children who are forced to endure the traumatic experiences of being homeless and for that reason every day is indeed interesting. How dare I think it would be anything but beautifully so. It was. It was because of Linda and all the other women like her who find rest in our doors. I’m excited for tomorrow.

All the best,

Shannon

Maryhouse Celebrates 30 Years!

This month, Maryhouse celebrates its 30th anniversary! Maryhouse, a daytime hospitality shelter for women at Loaves & Fishes, has served thousands of women over the years, and continues each day to provide a safe space for women and children in Sacramento.

To celebrate 30 years, we will share stories of Maryhouse each day in September: 30 days of Maryhouse Moments. We hope that these stories may help to illuminate what Maryhouse is all about, and how important this program has been in the lives of so many women these past 30 years.

Inspirational  messages such as this decorate the bathroom mirrors in Maryhouse.

 

Helping out

Lisa McGurty, the author of this blogpost, served as an AmeriCorps ViSTA at Loaves & Fishes. Similar to the peace corps, AmerCorps VISTAs labor at poverty relief organizations throughout the United States and live on a meager living stipend so that they can fully absorb the experience of poverty. Lisa’s work had a huge impact at Loaves & Fishes — she created this blog, advocated for the needs of our guests at the city, county and state level and routinely fashioned fantastic communications material for Loaves. 

I recently spent the day at Mustard Seed School. Mustard Seed School, a program of Loaves & Fishes, is a school for children currently experiencing homelessness in Sacramento.

After eating lunch in the preschool room, one of the children was eager to help with the dishes. “When I had a home,” she said, “it was my job to help my mom with the dishes. My brother would come in and make a big mess, and I would always help her clean it up.”

The conversation went on as she continued to scrub the the plates and cups, handing them over to me to rinse and dry. The little girl talked about her crazy brother, and I agreed that brothers can be very crazy. In the back of my mind, however, I could not stop thinking about the first thing she said.

This little girl is six years-old, and misses doing dishes in her home.

When we think about homelessness, we likely conjure images in our mind of what homelessness looks like. We create specific characters, and wonder what decisions they made in their lives that have led them to this place. We do not think of the thousands of children who have found themselves in this situation, who understand little about what it means or why they, unlike other children, do not have a home.

The truth is that homelessness is hidden everywhere. To learn more about Mustard Seed School, visit www.sacloaves.org/mustardseed.