Over twenty years ago we found we were serving many more poor and homeless people than we had ever imagined. They were waiting along 12th Street for the noon time meal for everyone to see. To give our many new guests a place of privacy and peace while waiting for their meal, we developed Friendship Park.
The first Park was a small welcoming area near our dining room but we soon experienced more growth and a need to expand further. That change became the Friendship Park we know; for the next 24 years.
And the need has continued to grow.
We recently completed a survey of our guests so that we could better understand their circumstances. The results made it clear how much our guests will benefit from a more spacious and welcoming Friendship Park.
We found that slightly over half of our guests are aged 50 or older. A staggering 63% are sleeping outside without shelter. And 53% reported psychiatric disabilities such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, severe anxiety or major depression. The simple amenities that Friendship Park offers – warm coffee, free showers and a change of clothes, access to phones, a sense of community, relationships with caring staff members and volunteers – are a lifeline for people experiencing homelessness.
We will announce the full results of the survey at a special ground blessing Wednesday, January 6th at 10am. In honor of Epiphany I’m inviting you to bring a gift of some soil from your home or place of worship to pour into the grounds of Friendship Park.
My hope is that this ground blessing will awaken our community’s understanding of the dimensions of homelessness in Sacramento and at Loaves & Fishes.
In its years across the cul-de-sac from our campus, Friendship Park has become a place where kindness, dignity, unconditional love, and respect are offered to those who receive little of it elsewhere. We offer them a community, an opportunity for acceptance, and a chance to trust others in a safe environment.
The Park is a beacon of safety and comfort for Sacramento’s poor and homeless, a place of acceptance where our guests can begin to feel they matter, a first step toward understanding they deserve more from life then the streets can offer.
Now, many years later, Friendship Park has outgrown its present location. It will move across the street to the center of our 4 acre campus where there will be more physical space, clean bathrooms, gazebos and easier access to programs; where more space will provide a more peaceful and welcoming atmosphere.
And I need your help to further the mission. This month will you write two checks? One check for your regular support and a second extra check to be a part of our renewed Friendship Park.
The need is great; $1,000,000 by September to accomplish our goals. Any contribution will help and, once again, I am counting on your support above and beyond your regular donations.
Sister Libby Fernandez Executive Director Loaves & Fishes