Food for the Body-Comfort for the Soul-How Bread of Life is Satisfying the Mouths and Morale of Low-Income San Diegans
Hidden, just off I-5 in Oceanside, is an innocuous cluster of white brick business units, the area is a hive of activity; a neon vested man with a baton waves and directs me into my parking spot, as cars to and fro from this seemingly ordinary strip. A thrift shop, cafe, kitchen and several office units sit neatly side by side. Boxes are wielded out of the doors brimming with ripened fruit, canned goods and food packets, while a line of eager people - seniors and children wraps around the facade.
This is the Bread of Life Rescue Mission, a Christian, non-profit that has been helping the community for over 20 years. It is run entirely by unpaid volunteers and around 20 different churches in San Diego. The charity is strikingly radical in its approach (which is run in a drug and alcohol-free environment). It is a unique combination of compassion, wholeness and pragmatism that sets it apart from the others, “we really believe the problem isn't the homeless issue, but the hopeless issue,'' says Tim Yzaguirre, the affable Executive Director.
This underlying ethos and faith is woven into everything the mission embodies. They believe, according to God, that every person has inherent value. “We don't preach... we model and teach”, enthuses Tim. The charity’s model is compelling, as it targets some of the core, underlying issues of homelessness, while providing practical solutions.
The mission’s buildings house a commercial kitchen, dining room, beds, and thrift shop. They also have office space for their client advocates, who help people transition to independent living by accessing other resources. Tim, who has worked for the mission for the last two years, has an acute sense of business and finance, which stems from his background in the banking/mortgage sector. He firmly believes that short-term, quick fix solutions such as vouchers and affordable housing are not enough. “If we get to them quickly, we can help them before the situation becomes chronic... and prevention is the big key,'' says Tim.
The preventive approach drills down to the team, their vision and their plans for the future. Liz Soler, Director of Life Skills and Leadership Development, comes from the world of Public and Social Services. She heads up the initiative to foster links and build relationships with outside organizations, so that people can become self-sufficient. According to the mission’s statics, 15% of the recipients are homeless (or neighbors without homes as Tim likes to call them), while an astounding 85% are vulnerable, low-income people with homes. “It’s our goal to prevent homelessness by helping them obtain work, be employed and save money,'' says Tim.
To that end, the mission’s next ambitious project is to purchase a building - (the Life Skills Academy), where it will offer qualifying students beds, shelter, training, education and life management skills for 12 months. “We are hoping that with the help of other businesses, grants and donations, we can make that a reality and bring wholeness to people’s lives”, says Tim with an optimistic glint in his eye.