Ozzie Garcia of Rancho Cucamonga is making a big impact on the lives of homeless people in the Inland Empire. The father of a blended family with six children (and recent first time grandfather) heads up the Breakfast Burrito Club, which provides meals to between 30 and 70 people several times per week. Garcia noted that more meals are served during the last two weeks of the month than the first two, due to the availability of cash aid and other assistance services. For many, these resources (meant to sustain one month) are depleted in the first two weeks. For the remainder of the month, people go hungry.
Garcia takes time to get to know the plight attached to each person he serves. When asked about the circumstances those in his population encounter, he replied that they vary. Contrary to the commonly held misconception that the majority of the homeless population is drug addicted, Garcia finds that in reality less than half are using drugs. In interview, Garcia stated that people come from circumstances that are “all over the place. Several families are living in their cars. One family was on the street. We meet people who have been on the streets for years and people who are new to this. We meet men, women and young adults. I would say a more than half don’t use any type of drugs. Some have medical issues, others have physiological issues. Many have been deeply wounded by life, for others this life is too hard and they just can’t cope.”
I asked Garcia what compelled him to take on the task of providing meals for the hungry. He stated that his faith in God was his driving force. Garcia said “I was in a small men’s Bible study and I got tired of do-nothing Christianity. I wanted to make a greater impact on those who were hurting. So we took the Bible study to the streets. We showed up at a park and prayed. We (the 5 of us) pooled all of our money and we only had seven dollars. We call ourselves the Burrito breakfast Club because we purchased seven breakfast burritos to start this. We got seven burritos and found seven homeless people. We gave them the food and prayed with them. Nothing fancy, just that God would bless them. Guess what? Chazzzzam! Four years later we have helped twelve people get off the streets. It is only three people per year, but hey we are part of the solution, even though it’s a small part…right?”
In fact, it is much more than a small part. Garcia is setting an example for his family and community that precious few are willing to set. Many people volunteer to serve holiday meals to the homeless, but forget that meals are needed daily. In addition to meals, Garcia provides ministry and teaching for those who would like to attend church but feel unwelcome due to their status. People who attend the park gatherings have reported feeling like valuable members of society upon connecting with Garcia’s group. This is exactly the goal Garcia hopes to accomplish. He states that it is his primary goal “for them (the homeless) to understand that God loves them and he has not given up on them. There is still a future for them.”
Garcia also hopes to continue getting people off the streets. Garcia stated that “there are a thousand reasons why someone ends up here and there are a thousand solutions. Everyone’s solution is different. That’s why we have had life changing success, because we spend time with them and are able to chat and get to know them. Many people on the streets were abused sexually, psychologically, emotionally and physically and they need time, friends and hearty doses of grace and mercy to process and move forward. We treat the people on the streets as if they are people we know and thus treat them with a sense of value and they feel it and start acting like valuable people. Go figure huh? ”
Garcia’s group has recently partnered with the Emmanuel Hispanic Presbyterian Church to help with resources and volunteer staffing for the weekly gatherings. In addition to providing meals and hope, Garcia and his group routinely provide necessities for the population. These come in the form of jackets, Bibles, tents, gloves, shoes, wheelchairs, batteries, trash bags, and other provisions. One event featured free haircuts for homeless people, thanks to a local beautician who donated her time. Garcia hopes to fulfill another important personal goal through his incredible work. He says he wants to “get the bleacher Christians involved in the game. Most Christians mean well, but do very little. Many Christians just don’t know how to get involved, so we provide a venue.”
There are several challenges facing the Breakfast Burrito Club, most of which are financial. Garcia stated that even with ten times the resources they currently have, it would not be enough to meet the enormous need facing the homeless population in Ontario and the greater Inland Empire. Anyone wishing to make a tax deductible donation can do so through the Emmanuel Hispanic Presbyterian Church at 1111 N. Mountain Ave, Claremont, CA 91711 by writing BBC in the memo.
Follow the incredible journey of Garcia and the BBC by checking out the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Burrito-Breakfast-Club/184043441662576?fref=ts.