Homeless woman finds her life nourished by Loaves and Fishes

Deb Gomes has known a number of setbacks and challenges. Only one left her wondering if she could bounce back.

A violent assault in February 2014 left her unable to work for more than six months. A self-employed haircutter, Gomes, 48, was forced to shutter her 8-year-old Danville-based business. Ultimately, she became homeless for the third time in her life.

“I gave up on myself,” Gomes said recently from the Martinez dining room of Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa, a 32-year-old nonprofit that serves free hot lunches — more than 14,000 per month — at five locations Monday through Friday. “Then I came here three months ago. One of my friends told me to come down here and they’d offer me some food, and they did.”

One good turn led to another. Gomes now has a place of her own a couple blocks from Loaves and Fishes. She has resurrected her haircutting business as a mobile enterprise that specializes in servicing seniors and veterans. Every couple weeks or so, she sets up shop in the alley behind the dining room and gives free haircuts to other diners trying to overcome their own challenges.

Stories like Gomes’ are music to the ears of David Gerson, executive director of Loaves and Fishes — which has received funding for its holiday program this year from Share the Spirit, an annual campaign to enhance the holiday season for needy residents in the East Bay. The grant is administered by the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, and donations support more than 30 nonprofit agencies in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

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