In an effort to serve more unhoused people, one nonprofit sends a food truck out to encampments to meet people where they are.
Dubbed “Hope on Wheels,” the food truck visits at least three encampments every week to bring hot meals and essential supplies such as jackets, tarps and hand sanitizer to unhoused people across the South Bay. The program, launched last Thanksgiving, serves between 70 to 200 hot meals a day.
“The needs have always been there,” Chef Salvador Hernandez, who manages the meal program for CityTeam San Jose, told San José Spotlight. “We’re fortunate enough to have all the resources to bring it to people now.”
CityTeam San Jose, a faith-based nonprofit, offers a host of services to unhoused residents, including overnight shelter and daily hot meals at its kitchen in North San Jose. Now, a crew of six to 12 people comes out weekly to Columbus Park to hand out food and essentials to people in one of the largest encampments in the Bay Area.
Volunteers also walk around the camp to do outreach and bring meals to those who can’t leave their tents or vehicles.
“We know that some people, especially elder folks, can’t walk over here,” Claudine Sipili, a program director at CityTeam San Jose, told San José Spotlight.
“Hope on Wheels” fills a gap in much-needed services as Santa Clara County continues to struggle with its homeless crisis—an issue that’s exploded in the last few years. Sweeps in some cities have displaced unhoused individuals, and advocates logged 250 deaths on the streets last year.
In 2019, the county reported a record high of more than 9,700 unhoused residents. As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more families and residents out into the streets, advocates worry the issue has only gotten worse. The county is scheduled to conduct a new count later this month.
CityTeam is also working to send more services, such as free haircuts and medical clinics, along with the food truck, Hernandez said.
“We’re hoping to bring other nonprofits along and expand this through those partnerships,” he said.
Diana Diamonds has lived in the sprawling camp near Columbus Park for three years. She stopped by the truck on Friday to pick up a jacket and a meal, which included Korean-style pork loin, rice, vegetables and pork rinds.
“Your cooking is very good,” Diamonds told Hernandez, adding she first tried his food several weeks ago. “Thank you for doing this.”
Mary Kraut, a volunteer who helped CityTeam organize the food truck, said the program is a creative and fun way to serve the neediest in the community. Her adult daughter, Katie Stafford, joined efforts on Friday to hand out hygiene kits, warm clothes and sleeping bags.
“It’s my first time out here,” Stafford said. “Everyone is so nice and friendly.”
The program often sets out chairs and tables so people can enjoy their food together. Some use the truck as a spot to meet up with friends and acquaintances.
Adrian Sanchez, who has been homeless since 2018, said he’s come to the food truck several times.
“People working are always very friendly,” Sanchez said. “I wish they could stay longer so more people can come and eat.”
Source: San Jose Spotlight