La Jollan starts meals program for destitute


Amid renewed focus on homelessness in the community, a La Jolla woman has established a biweekly program to feed the destitute at a local church.

Tresha Souza, a Catholic parishioner of Mary Star of the Sea at 7669 Girard Ave., has started the Interfaith Community Supper, which just distributed its first free meal cooked in the church’s kitchen recently on May 19.

“This is for people down and out in these tough times, not necessarily the homeless,” she said. “It’s for people who’ve maybe gotten pink slips or pay cuts, anybody who needs food in their stomach.”

Setting an example

Souza’s says she’s motivated to feed the destitute for a number of reasons, including setting an example for her children.

“It’s important for me as a parent to teach my children compassion, that life’s about giving,” she said.

Issues surrounding the highly visible and seemingly growing problems with homelessness have prompted merchants in the Jewel to meet with the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach team, which also gave a presentation to La Jolla Town Council May 14.

‘Thorny’ issue

Earl Van Inwegen, the new town council president, said his group was unaware of local efforts to feed the destitute.

“At least it wasn’t brought up in the discussion we had at the town council,” he said, adding homelessness is a “thorny” issue. “It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t really tragic situation.”

“If you’re offering food at a kitchen or something like that, citizens are concerned about the possibility of homeless congregating and spending more time here,” he added. “But then, on the other hand, you’re trying to do something humanitarian to support and help them. It’s a tough problem.”

Safety an issue

Sgt. Richard Schnell, head of the Homeless Outreach Team, said the police department has no official position on soup kitchens or other facilities serving homeless.

“We just require that they abide by (County) Health and Human Services Department codes which require that food has to be prepackaged and come from certified kitchens inspected regularly,” he said.

Health department codes related to food are not intended to discourage feeding of the homeless.

“The intent is to protect the public,” said Schnell. “It’s to prevent people from setting up on the corner and just selling food all of a sudden.”

Darcy Ashley, who just stepped down as town council president, noted that homelessness is an ongoing problem in the Jewel.

“We’ve always had a group of long-term people here who know what they can and can’t do,” she said. “But we’ve got a whole new group of people coming into the community, and these people have been more intrusive than the regulars because they don’t know the rules or guidelines to keep them from getting into trouble.”

Souza has a bigger picture in mind with help for the homeless.

“This isn’t just a Band-Aid,” she said. “Once we get donors and the funding, we’re looking for a facility, probably in Pacific Beach, that could serve PB, La Jolla and the whole area. It would be full-service with showers, job help, mailboxes, food and shelter. It takes money to make these goals happen. I have a vision. My 501 c3 (nonprofit status) is in process.”

The next Interfaith Community Supper will be June 2 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Mary Star of the Sea.

Those wishing to volunteer their services for homeless relief can e-mail