Loaves and Fishes, Sacramento's homeless shelter and advocacy organization, celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier today with a parade that featured representatives from nonprofit organizations, homeless children and adults, their advocates and Mayor Kevin Johnson.
The parade, which took place along a three-block route on Ahern Street, ended at the Loaves and Fishes complex, where advocates of the homeless discussed the 30-year legacy of the shelter.
The shelter, which began in the kitchen of founders Dan and Chris Delany, has since grown and fostered the growth of more than 40 spinoff organizations that provide resources for the homeless, said Libby Fernandez, the shelter's executive director.
Shortly after the parade, Johnson took the stage to address the crowd at the shelter. During his speech, Johnson affirmed his commitment to create affordable housing for every person in Sacramento, and praised Loaves and Fishes as one of Sacramento's "best institutions."
Henry Harris, a plumber who quit using drugs and got a job with assistance from Loaves and Fishes, also came onstage to address the crowd.
Harris said his life was "a runaway train" after he lost his home and his possessions and wound up on the street, and expressed his thanks to the shelter for helping him out of his lowest period.
"Once you walk through that gate, you're not judged," Harris said.
During the parade, the homeless paraded down the short route carrying signs representing places at the shelter that were important to them and pushed shopping carts that were decorated specially for the occasion.
Max Wilson, who has been homeless for 14 years, observed the parade behind a cart decorated with a cardboard box covered in stickers and neon orange twine. Wilson has been shooed away from stores after asking for cups of ice because of the way he looks and because of the property he lacks, he said.
"We're still looked down on because we don't got the houses they got, we don't got the cars they got," Wilson said.
After Johnson's speech, Kevin Smith-Fagan, the vice president of general development for local public television station KVIE, told the assembled homeless and their advocates that the city cared about them.
"In case you ever wonder if you matter in society, we're here to tell you: Yeah, you matter," Smith-Fagan said.