Forty people marched in the parade. Each carried a sign with the name of a program, cheered on by 200 supporters of the organization.
Henry Harris has an apartment and a job with a local plumbing company. He says Loaves and Fishes helped him overcome addiction, homelessness, and despair five-and-a-half years ago:
“I was living a 30-year circle of life –up, down, up, down. Finally, it all came to a head. Sooner or later, life catches up with you. And when you’re living the wrong path, it all blows up in your face. Well, it did to me.”
Sister Libby Fernandez with Loaves and Fishes can’t say how effective those programs have been over the years, but can say thousands of people have been helped by them:
“Of the 650 people that come here each day, at least one person comes each day and says, ‘Hey, thank you. I am so happy I am in my own housing. I am finally in Clean Cottages. I am finally in VOA shelter.’ So, our success is every day a miracle.”
Danny Scheel was homeless at this time last year. Now he works for the Old Soul Co coffee company:
“Loaves and Fishes referred me to the Salvation Army. They sent me through a culinary school in Lodi, graduated that, and I came back to Sacramento. I still didn’t have a place to go and I moved in over at VOA and found a job out here in Sacramento as a chef.”
Fernandez says the goal of the organization is to shut its doors due to lack of need. But, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. A recent survey by Sacramento Steps Forward found the city’s homeless population increased in the last year by more than seven percent and that the number of chronic homeless increased by more than 22 percent.
Even as the parade and music continued at the charity's north Sacramento location between C Street and Richards Boulevard, another 200 people lined up just a few yards away. Many were homeless and were lining up for a free lunch.