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San Diego Pizza Shop Exists to Help Homeless Youth

Timmy’s Place in Downtown is using the restaurant model as a way through one of the city’s biggest challenges
Courtesy of Timmy's Place
Timmy's Place, pizza counter

Timmy’s Place, pizza counter

Courtesy of Timmy’s Place

Legendary Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke and his wife Mary have seen homelessness firsthand. Their son overcame it. And now there’s a pizza joint in Downtown in their son’s honor, employing homeless youth.

The goal of Timmy’s Place—a cafe, pizzeria, and print shop opened this week on 5th Ave—is to employ 50 unhoused youth a year (the issue doesn’t discriminate… there are thousands of homeless 18-24 year olds around the county). In doing so, they give the youth job skills and proven experience. The concept is a collaboration between Rolf Benirschke Legacy Foundation, The Lucky Duck Foundation.

“It helps them with transferable skills and provides them with tools for future interviews,” says Dante Dauz community engagement & business development director at Union of Pan Asian Communities, the organization running the shop. Dauz notes even the walls will be used to de-stigmatize graffiti. “They will be taught graffiti and street art as art, not vandalism. The words tagged will relate to the taste of food, like sabroso.”

Timmy's Place, interior

Timmy’s Place, interior

Courtesy of Timmy’s Place

Timmy’s takes up the ground floor of the Urban Street Angels’ youth center, which has 70 beds for 18- to 24-year-olds experiencing homelessness. The goal is full integration in the pizza and print operations. They’re baking the pies, assembling deli sandwiches, printing t-shirts, and balancing the books. The hand-painted pop art and cartoon-themed hallway leading to the bathroom? Theirs, too.

Chef Eddie Gochicoa heads the kitchen, and the menu reflects the multicultural backgrounds of the people it’s dedicated to helping (Thai chicken, Somali stew, Vietnamese coffee). Dauz says he hopes it will breed a space of inclusion and familiarity where all ethnic backgrounds are celebrated.

Timmy’s Place hopes to expand its operating hours into the evening, but first it has to achieve its task of becoming a self-sustaining business after one year. Dauz says anyone looking to support can “fund a shift” for $100, or purchase the custom merch that’s for sale on-site, all designed by the youth.

Timmy’s Place: 1404 5th ave San Diego 92101

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By Jared Cross

Jared Cross is a writer who grew up near the US-Mexico border in San Diego. He credits this experience with refining his appetite for food and culture.

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