Serving the terminally  ill  homeless

I met up with James Fitzhugh at Friendship Park on the campus of Loaves & Fishes last month. His story reinforced what I’ve known and seen for a long time: anyone can become homeless. James went from middle class to homeless very quickly.

James held senior management jobs at several high tech companies. Later he even managed a ski school. He was well off and enjoying life. And he had a compassionate side, once helping a friend who had a serious alcohol addiction.

Last month we met with Kristy Catchings in Pollock Pines, just an hour’s drive from Sacramento towards Lake Tahoe. She lives in a house with large windows, nestled in the hills dense with pine trees. For as long as she can remember, her sister Lynette Godfrey had always seemed troubled. She often acted out and ran away from home.

This was in the 60s. Her family lived in a rural Midwest town where children were taught to be seen and not heard. Parents did not openly discuss their troubles with others much less with school psychologists or mental health professionals. Kristy recalls, “This was a time and place where things like mental illness and sexual abuse were tucked neatly away in the closet. People who suffered mental illness were often put into facilities.”

Just before Christmas, I met with several homeless people at Loaves & Fishes who agreed to be interviewed on camera. They told us about the physical and emotional pain of living day to day on the streets of Sacramento.