|Lining up for lunch out side Loaves & fishes.|
Loaves & Fishes has served over 3 million hot meals since 1976. Located at 2009 Congress Street, The Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen is run by MHI resident Billy Shepherd. Billy is a 2010 "Achiever of the Year" Award recipient from the Houston Coalition for the Homeless.
From the March 2011 MHI Newsletter:
"It was bound to happen someday, we were going to break our 350 serving limit for yet another day. We would like to say that it is Loaves & Fishes manager Billy Shepherd and his cooking but the fact of the matter is: homelessness is getting worse. When Loaves & Fishes started in 1976, it was to serve the men who were in staying in bunk-houses and had to be outside by 5:00 a.m. A few crackers were offered. Dinner was offered but wasn’t substantial. Rose Mary saw the need for the men who could not get into either place and began serving large amounts of homemade soup on the back of a flat bed truck.
Loaves & Fishes continues to serve hot meals either brought in by volunteers or put together with food from the Houston Food Bank. Billy manages an orchestra each day with our residents who are assigned to work down at the soup kitchen; the volunteers and the guests. He does it so well, he was recognized in 2010 by the Coalition for the Homeless as “Achiever of the Year” award because he once lived on the Bayou for five months and since then has helped himself to stay off the streets and in turn helps others who need substance both spiritually and nutritionally.
Our volunteers are our backbone. Some come individually and others are from church groups from around Houston. Teens come in for community service hours for their schools or for scout projects. We ask for some food assistance, usually produce for the meal from groups.
Inside the soup kitchen, there are two murals both painted by former MHI resident Vincent Portillo. The first is a colorful picture of the raised hands of Jesus: one holding fish, the other holding bread. Both Jesus and his disciples have their eyes raised to heaven in gratitude.
|Mural inside the Loaves & Fishes dining room by former MHI resident Vincent Portillo|
The second mural is stark and shows the reality of Houston. In the background, there is the Houston skyline, buildings that are easily recognizable. In the foreground, there is a line of men and women waiting to get into Loaves & Fishes. All the men and women used to be guests at the soup kitchen. In the middle of the line is one wrapped in a blanket. It is Jesus.
Jesus is on the streets. We do not wax eloquently when we say there is danger. But we choose to help those who are the throw away from society who need our help rather than want for only temporary assistance. These men and women do not have access to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, Gold Card, immigration, transportation, food stamps, heat, air conditioning, public bathrooms or showers. All of these services are denied because they do not have permanent addresses. There are social service agencies that provide such addresses but the wait is long for a place to show they have an address. Jesus is with these people and they will always get their fill at Loaves & Fishes (we have never send anyone away)."