Sign up for our newsletter

In Colorado Springs, home-cooked food provides much-needed normalcy for the unhoused community

share

This story is the first of several in a Rocky Mountain PBS series documenting homelessness in Colorado Springs. As the topic is debated by politicians and mayoral candidates promising solutions, those living in it share their stories. 

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. A smiling face and a warm “thanks” is exchange enough for a hot meal, according to Hector Diaz. When he gives a freshly cooked meal to an unhoused person, he said, “It’s good to see their faces.” 

“Here’s our famous pork,” Diaz said, handing a paper plate with steaming, aromatic Cuban food out his food truck’s window.  

The patron smiles back.  

Diaz, the founder and owner of Cuban restaurant “Lucy, I’m Home,” spends spends the occcasional Monday in the parking lot of Westside Cares, a direct services organization, participating in an event called “Food Trucks Against Homelessness.” 

“It’s just a way to give back to the community and hopefully help people get back on their feet,” Diaz said.

Tracey Porter, a community member who wanted to find ways to serve the unhoused community during the COVID-19 pandemic, started the food truck program in hopes of aiding struggling local businesses and providing much-needed nutrition and socializing for people experiencing homelessness. 

“Our small business community needed support during COVID, and it helps people who need a home-cooked meal,” Porter said. “It’s a win-win.” 

Every Monday, Porter coordinates food options outside Westside Cares on the west side of Colorado Springs and serves up hot meals to those receiving services, like retrieving mail, applying for a state-issued ID or picking up toiletries. Porter chose the time and location because many people experiencing homelessness in Colorado Springs use Westside Cares as a mail address and check mail on Mondays.  

“Everybody deserves a home-cooked meal,” Porter said. “Everyone wants the opportunity to go out to eat, so it gives them a sense of normalcy. We all deserve to have normalcy.” 

Food trucks typically feed around 80 to 100 people, Porter said. She covers the cost of food and supplies and asks food truck workers to donate their time. Getting commitment from trucks can be difficult, Porter said, and she will work with any truck and welcomes those interested in helping.

Cuban bread is hard to make in Colorado's dry climate. But Diaz says he wouldn't be able to serve Cuban food without the bread, so it is one of the regular offerings at the "Lucy, I'm Home" food truck.

 

On Mondays when no food truck is scheduled, Porter and a team of volunteers serve Top Ramen packs and hand out socks, underwear, clothing and hygiene products. 

“Our houseless neighbors are amazing people,” Porter said, recounting what he called a “wonderful experience.”   

On May 8, "Lucy I’m Home” served its "famous" marinated pork, black beans cooked with onions and spices and deep-fried plantains. The truck traditionally uses Cuban bread from a Puerto Rican bakery to make sandwiches, but Cuban bread is difficult to bake in large quantities at Colorado’s altitude, Diaz said. 

The truck's pork entrees have earned a reputable status in Colorado Springs. Marinated for eight to ten hours with mojo sauce, cumin, garlic and onions, the meat is then cooked slowly at a low temperature. Just before serving, Diaz turns the heat up to give the pork a crispy edge.

“It goes really well with any kind of plate,” Diaz said.  

Diaz spent the first 10 years of his life in Cuba, then emigrated to the United States after the Cuban Revolution. Because of his father’s involvement with the previous Cuban government, neither of his parents were able to leave the country. Diaz ended up in an orphanage in Pueblo. He spent four years in the orphanage and could not reunite with his parents for another 11 years. 

Because Colorado has such a small Cuban community, Diaz said he struggled to connect with others from the same background. His previous career brought him to Miami several times over his 30 years on the job. Eating authentic food in a city with a significant Cuban population inspired him to bring his heritage to the Centennial State. 

“I became totally Americanized growing up here, and I really lost my culture,” Diaz said. “But I always had that passion for it.” 

The restaurant's name — “Lucy, I’m Home” — came from Ricky Ricardo of the 1950’s television sitcom “I Love Lucy.” Ricardo was known for saying the phrase. Diaz remembers Ricardo as one of the first Cuban characters on an American television show, and chose the name as a way to bridge his two communities. 

“I wanted something that would connect America with Cuba,” Diaz said. “It’s a lot of work, but we love what we do. It's a family affair. It’s allowed me to share some of the Cuban culture with people in Colorado Springs that might not otherwise be exposed to it.” 

While Diaz passes out plates of food, Porter delivers cards with inspirational notes on them. Sayings like “Your presence is a present to the world,” and “Some people make the world more special just by being in it” decorate pieces of card stock. Unhoused recipients smile and chuckle as they read the kind words. 

“That must be talking about you,” Porter says to one man with a card.

Along with meals from a rotating set of food trucks, Food Trucks Against Homelessness founder Tracey Porter packs medical resources, snacks and toiletries into the back of her Jeep every week to hand out at to unhoused neighbors at West Side Cares.

 

Porter knows all that unhoused individuals deal with — harsh weather, theft from other homeless people, and harassment from police officers. Porter lives near a spot where groups of people experiencing homelessness stake tents. Seeing police officers take belongings — leaving folks with nothing — is a frequent and tragic occurrence. 

“It’s ridiculous,” Porter said of homelessness cleanups, commonly known as “sweeps.” “I don’t see the purpose in it at all.” 

She often sees the same people lined up for more survival products after officers took what little they already had. 

“Whatever few pairs of socks they had previously are now gone,” Porter said.  

Food Trucks Against Homelessness relies on donations from community members, including hygiene products. Porter hopes to eventually turn the effort into a nonprofit, making it easier to receive partnerships and donations from large corporations.  

In the meantime, Porter hopes community members will continue to make themselves aware of causes that support unsheltered neighbors. 


Alison Berg is a journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at alisonberg@rmpbs.org.

Zach Ben-Amots is an investigative multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at zachben-amots@rmpbs.org.

Over a million Coloradans turn to Rocky Mountain PBS to discover provocative and inspiring local, national and international programming; find diverse viewpoints; score front row center seats to world-class performances; and experience lifelong learning opportunities every month.

Contact with us

Contact

Audience Services

Mail

Address

Buell Public Media Center

2101 Arapahoe St.

Denver, CO 80205

Legal

Thank you to the Buell Foundation, Bonfils Stanton Foundation and Koelbel & Company.

This site uses cookies for continuous music streaming.

© 2024, All Rights Reserved