1321 North C St.
Monday-Friday: 7:30 AM to 2:45 PM
(916) 446-4961/(916)637-2440
October 6, 1986

Maryhouse, a program of Loaves & Fishes, is a daytime shelter for homeless women and children. It provides personal attention to women through intense short-term guidance with a goal of helping them take the next step from seeking assistance to independence and self-sufficiency.

Maryhouse’s office is open 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM for prospective guests to apply for memberships and current guests to apply for membership renewals. Guests must complete one chore per month to remain eligible for membership renewal.

Philosophy Statement

Maryhouse is a program of Loaves & Fishes, a non-profit organization providing service “in a spirit of love, hospitality, and generosity to all those who come for assistance.” It is overseen by a Board of Directors consisting of representatives from the numerous Loaves & Fishes programs and community leaders who are concerned about the plights of the homeless and indigent poor. Serving out of sympathy for the poor and disadvantaged, the Maryhouse staff aims to impart both love and respect to all who come seeking assistance. By acknowledging the “dignity and spiritual destiny” of each individual, Maryhouse hopes to cultivate both the material and immaterial needs (love, acceptance, respect, and friendship) of those who come for aid. In addition to providing for these needs, Maryhouse advocates for those who come for aid. They appeal to the community to understand its accountability in the origins and resolutions of hunger and homelessness, lack of basic health care, unemployment, and condescending attitudes that can potentially damage the self-respect and self-confidence of those seeking assistance.

Historical Origins

Laura Ann Walkton and St. Nora Lowe founded Maryhouse in 1986 to address the needs of escalating amounts of homeless women and children. It originally inhabited the small cottages that Loaves & Fishes’ Mustard Seed School now occupies. In 1989, after acquiring the necessary use permits and support from the local neighborhood association, both Maryhouse and St. John’s Shelter moved into what used to be the perfume factory. Maryhouse initially only provided two programs (The Women’s Wisdom Project and Women’s Empowerment Program), however, since then it has greatly expanded the amount of services it provides. When Maryhouse was originally established in 1986, they were able to provide for 208 people while only incurring monthly operating expenses of $4929. Today, they face monthly operating expenses totaling $24320 to serve just over 3000 people.

About Maryhouse

Maryhouse is a community of hope for people who are all too often close to despair. Their primary “job” is to give respect, compassion, dignity, and justice to each other and their clients. Those at Maryhouse believe that everyone deserves a fair share of the earth’s resources. However, with the current state of the economy and high rates of unemployment, more and more people find themselves out of work and sleeping outside after depleting the resources they had available. According to information provided by Connie Frank, co-director of Maryhouse, the amount of people sleeping outside has more than doubled since 1992. In 1992, 20% of Maryhouse’s guests reported sleeping outside. Today, that percent has almost tripled at 58%. Homeless shelters have extremely limited space and those allowed to stay, may only do so for 30 days.

Did you know that a mother on welfare with a child only receives $530 per month? Assuming people with these conditions could afford to put a roof over their head, how would they provide for their other necessities? Maryhouse represents these people’s last resort. Maryhouse welcomes every woman, accepts them regardless of the condition they are in upon arrival, provides necessities, and (in our opinion, the most important service) actually listens to the people who come seeking aid. It is a sanctuary where women can go to receive help from other women.


Maryhouse, like its parent organization, Loaves & Fishes, “neither solicits nor accepts government funds” (Sacramento Loaves & Fishes 2010). Maryhouse is completely dependent on private donations to support its work of feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. They do not accept government funding for four reasons: (1) to limit government influence on how they choose to serve their guests, (2) to be less reliant on “the whims of politicians” for funding, (3) to allow them to focus more time and energy actually serving those in need and less on bureaucratic paperwork, and (4) to allow Maryhouse to serve as a voice for the homeless without fear of repercussions toward funding for opposing government officials (Sacramento Loaves & Fishes 2010).

Although Maryhouse does not accept government funding, they do accept monetary and commodity donations from the public. Commodity donations can be delivered to their warehouse (1351 North C St, Sacramento, CA 95811) between 7:00 AM and 2:30 PM Monday through Friday. Monetary donations are accepted online or at the Administration office.

Maryhouse has a Mother’s Day Appeal and a Christmas Appeal where they mail out Mother’s Day/Christmas cards (with remittance envelopes included) to approximately 20000 people in the Sacramento area. These recipients are asked to either make donations themselves or mail the appeals to someone else that might.

Volunteer Opportunities

If you are interested in volunteering, you must be at least 14 and attend a volunteer orientation. These volunteer orientations last approximately 2 hours and are offered every Thursday (by appointment only) at 10:00 AM. Volunteer orientation takes place at the Loaves & Fishes Delany Center (401 12th St., Sacramento, CA 95811).

Volunteering at Maryhouse is easy and encouraged. Loaves & Fishes and Maryhouse partner with many local schools, including schools in the Sacramento Catholic Dioceses. I, Luis Herrera, attended St. Ignatius Elementary school and Jesuit High School (both are located here in Sacramento). During my time at St. Ignatius we were always encouraged to volunteer to help the needy at an early age. One year, our sixth grade class was assigned to buy gifts, during the holidays, for three families that attend Maryhouse. They were typically single parent families with two or more children. Everyone is encouraged to donate food, new or used clothing, and gifts for the children during the holidays.

On another occasion, while attending Jesuit, our senior class partnered with our local sister school, St. Francis High School, to serve food at the Loaves & Fishes and Maryhouse kitchens on Saturday mornings. This was a year-round opportunity for all students and many served breakfast at least once. The boys would help at Loaves & Fishes while the girls would help at Maryhouse. Volunteering takes an hour to two hours out of one’s busy life. In the world of greed that we live in today, it is beneficial to stop every once and a while to give some of the excess we have back to those in need. Maryhouse would not be able to operate without all the hours that volunteers put in each week. I encourage you all to take an hour out of your weekend and accept the challenge of helping others in need. Maryhouse offers many opportunities to get involved, why wait any longer?


  • Maryhouse has coffee available for their guests at Loaves & Fishes’ Friendship Park beginning at 7:00 AM.
  • Maryhouse’s Hot Breakfast Meal program provides their guests with a home-cooked breakfast each day consisting of foods like “French toast, pancakes, or scrambled eggs along with oatmeal, fruit, cereal, and juice. Hot breakfast is served between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM. Warm beverages are also available on cold mornings between 7:30 AM and 8:00 AM.
  • Lunch tickets for Women without children are available for Maryhouse guests between 7:00 AM and 12:45 PM at Loaves & Fishes’ Friendship Park service center.  Women with children can receive lunch tickets at the Maryhouse front counter or Mustard Seed School.
  • Maryhouse makes their phones available to guests for personal use. Guests can use the upstairs phones to make local calls or the downstairs phone to make long distance calls. Maryhouse only asks that their guests limit phone calls to 3 minutes per call.
  • Guests are permitted to use Maryhouse for their mailing address (1321 North C Street, Sacramento, CA 95811) and phone number for messages. Mail and messages are held for a maximum of 30 days.
  • Guests can request toiletries between 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM. 
  • Maryhouse has diapers available once per week to mothers (current guests) who have custody of children.  
  • Current guests can request a supply of feminine hygiene products (either tampons or pads) once per month.
  • Drinking water and cups are available on the Back Patio.
  • Maryhouse has specific quiet rooms reserved for guests seeking rest and quiet time. Quiet rooms are closed during lunch (12:00 PM to 1:00 PM).
  • Maryhouse’s guests have access to showers. Morning showers are available 8 AM to 12:00 AM. 
  • Maryhouse has a Women’s Empowerment program designed to provide homeless women with training, mentoring and support to obtain and maintain employment.
  • Maryhouse is a place of safety that does not allow threats, physical and verbal fighting between guests. Weapons, violence, foul language, threats, smoking, drugs, and alcohol are prohibited.

Guests of Maryhouse also gain access to these additional Loaves & Fishes services:

  • If a guest is released from jail or trying to contact/visit someone in jail, they can go to the Delany Center office Monday through Thursday from 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM.
  • Maryhouse’s guests can keep adult dogs and cats (with verifiable vaccinations and that are spayed or neutered) at Loaves & Fishes’ kennels. The kennels are open from 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM Monday through Friday and 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM Saturday and Sunday. Dog and cat food is available at 1:00 PM. The Mercer Veterinary Clinic is available on the second Saturday of every month.
  • Guests can obtain assistance with infractions and misdemeanor tickets, and fulfillment of community service hours at the Delany Center Legal Clinic between 9:00 AM and 2:30 PM Tuesday through Friday.
  • A full service library is available with books, daily newspapers and periodicals. It is open 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM and 12:00 PM to PM Monday through Thursday and 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM on Friday.
  • The younger Maryhouse guests have access to pre-school thru 8th grade education at Loaves & Fishes’ Mustard Seed School. They can sign up daily from 8:15 AM to 8:45 AM at the school’s office.
  • If Maryhouse's guests have a medical question or may need to see a doctor, they can see a nurse at Guest Health Outreach. They can sign-up starting at 7:30 AM in Loaves & Fishes’ Friendship Park Monday through Thursday. On Fridays they can go to Mercy Clinic between 7:30 AM and 1:00 PM.
  • Guests can receive mental health services like counseling, and referrals for needed services at Loaves & Fishes’ Genesis program.
  • N.A. and A.A. Meetings are available 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM across the street at Clean & Sober.


This report was written for Cynthia Linville’s English 20 class at CSU Sacramento Fall 2011. —LuisHerrera