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"The Key is Hope"
Barbara Watkins Shares Her Story

   My story starts out in 2010 when I moved from Nashville, Tennessee to live in Pittsburg, California with my God family. In Nashville, I was a retired military person, and also ran a daycare center. I was very active in community activities.

   I arrived in Pittsburg and lived with my God Family for a short time, but unknown to me, they decided to move to Colorado and didn’t inform me. I was very worried because my income situation was stark and I also had medical issues. I didn’t have any family in the Bay Area to ask for help. So, shortly after they moved, I became homeless.

   My days consisted of me walking from sun up to sun down, with no destination. One of the most difficult parts of being homeless was the isolation and fear; I prayed constantly to God. During this time I slept on people’s porches, and occasionally a kind person would let me sleep in their home. I would sometimes ask strangers for a few dollars to buy food, but I was always hungry. It was a very hard time and there were times when I didn’t want to live anymore, but when I prayed, God always gave me hope that things would get better. Daily, I didn’t know where I would sleep, what I would eat or wear.

   During a daily walk, I saw the Loaves and Fishes sign in Pittsburg. I went into the dining room and immediately felt welcomed by Debbie, the dining room manager, and the volunteers. I began to eat at the LFCC dining room daily. For the first time, I wasn’t hungry all the time. The volunteers were caring and compassionate for the guest’s circumstances, and acted to help guests however they could. For the first time since my homeless ordeal began, I felt hopeful, and began to be focused on helping myself get out of my situation. I wanted to give back to Loaves and Fishes, so I began volunteering a few times per week. Volunteering at Loaves helped me to regain my confidence, and self-esteem, after being homeless, hungry, and feeling hopeless. Also, I was able to focus on others, and it allowed me to see the good that Loaves was doing in the community.

   Now I am employed full time, have a lovely home to live in, and am active in my church and community. I miss volunteering with Loaves and Fishes, but know that they will always be part of my family of friends.

   To close, I want you to know that while I was a client, then a volunteer, Loaves and Fishes was the beginning of my journey out of being homeless and without hope. I want you to know that the key is hope, even when all seems hopeless, you should never stop hoping. Loaves and Fishes helped me to take that first step of hope.