Maryhouse for Homeless Persons
By Sister Anne Locke, SNDdeN
In 2006, I came to Sacramento, the capital of California, to our newly formed Cristo Rey High School (CRHS). As job developer, I acquired a special placement for our students at Maryhouse, a Program of Loaves and Fishes. The students entered data for the Development Office and also served the noon meal to guests. Today, CRHS still places students at this center.
Moving from a ministry in education at CRHS, I wanted to serve with “those made poor in a world marked by increasing divisions and inequalities”(CALLS: 2014 General Chapter, p. 5). Sister Libby Fernandez, RSM, Director of Loaves and Fishes, introduced me to the Director of Maryhouse, who invited me to work there. I have been serving now for 8 years!
Maryhouse provides services for homeless female, transgender persons and single fathers. We open our doors at 7:00 a.m. for showers. We serve breakfast from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. and end all services each day at 2: 30 p.m. On any given day, at least 45 guests take showers; more than 120 individuals, including children, have breakfast. Over 100 persons receive requested items, such as clothing and personal items. Church and community organizations, with some groups having been here over 15 years, prepare and serve breakfasts. Menus include oatmeal, grits, dry cereal, French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, chopped ham, grilled cheese sandwiches. The number of guests increases at the end of each month.
Good Health and Well-Being
At Maryhouse, I began by helping with breakfasts, and making sure that we had enough supplies on hand. As a great way to get to know guests and develop relationships, I took their names as they entered. Homeless for years, many individuals have been camping along the rivers flowing through Sacramento. Oprah Winfrey did a TV series on these homeless persons, in the early 2000s. Their stories often include physical and/or substance abuse, poverty of parents, housing too expensive for those living in poverty. At this center, individuals establish relationships with one another through a variety of interests and activities, in solving puzzles, checking in guests, or viewing local birds. With interaction and support, Maryhouse staff assist the guests to break their habits of addiction and/or to seek permanent shelter. We rejoice with each person who says: “I’ve been sober for a year!” or “I have a place to live!” or “I’m moving back home to live with my family!”
Besides providing showers and breakfast, Maryhouse dispenses survival products for women and babies. We provide whatever is donated to those in need, including clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, feminine hygiene products, toiletries, diapers, and more. With the help of wonderful weekly volunteers, we sort for distribution these items, stored in our supply warehouse. We assemble also hygiene packages for guests unable to make the shower list. This number has greatly increased in the last 2 years.
Newer Members Assist
During these years, I had a graced opportunity to have younger Sisters spend summers with me in service at Loaves and Fishes, an alternative experience from education or parish ministry, and a ministry with those living in poverty, a commitment to the Mission of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN). In recent years, we asked Gillian Wallace, an affiliate, if she would come to experience a ministry for the homeless. She came to serve that summer and volunteered during the next summer as well!
Programs at Loaves and Fishes include a school, health clinic, law clinic, mental health service, men’s wash house, and dining room, serving about 700 meals a day. We provide also a night shelter for mentally ill persons.
We live faithfully our Mission Statement: In an environment of welcome, hospitality, safety and cleanliness, we seek to provide an oasis for homeless men, women and children seeking survival services.
As an SNDdeN, I realize that I am “making known the goodness of God” to a very vulnerable group of persons in our society today!