Jordan Storment, left, of Hope Compassion Ministries in Redding is working toward starting a new non-profit restaurant that would help feed, clothe and employ the area’s homeless and unemployed residents. Hope Ministries currently serves free breakfast and lunch to those in need and offers free showers and access to laundry facilities.
Michael Mojarro and Jordan Storment say they have a new approach to addressing the growing number of homeless, hungry and unemployed in Shasta County.
The pair — with the help of many volunteers — serve about 2,200 free meals a month from a cramped and aging kitchen at Living Hope Compassion Ministries on State Street near the Redding Public Library.
The number of people, many of them families, seeking meals and free groceries from the non-profit, church-based group has increased significantly with the recession, Storment said.
“Our idea is to open a non-profit restaurant that would serve the masses. Eating there would be an easy and affordable way for people in the community to help those in need,” he said.
Profits from the restaurant, Storment said, would fund free meals and other social services intended to reduce the number of people forced to live on the street and who cannot afford to buy food in Shasta County.
“I really see something big with this,” said Storment, who became Living Hope’s second paid employee after graduating from Simpson College two years ago.
However, the big question has been how to raise seed money for their project when Living Hope and other groups that offer services to those in need struggle to keep their doors open.
“There is grant money out there for projects that offer real jobs that take people off the streets,” he said.
Mojarro and Storment took one step toward realizing their dream when the Redding Rancheria Community Fund awarded the ministry $10,000 earlier this month. Living Hope was among several local charities in the running for the gift, which was announced at the Rancheria’s annual banquet at Win-River Casino.
The money has no strings attached, so it can be used to pay operating expenses not covered by other grant funding the organization receives. Spending constraints and strict accounting are typical of most non-profit grant funding, which makes up most of Living Hope’s $150,000 annual budget, Mojarro said.
“Most of the money we receive can only be spent on food,” he said. “We can use this (Community Fund) money to pay for other things not provided for under our grants. That is the really great thing for us.”
The restaurant idea is in the planning stages and the cost of such a project is unclear, but it would be in a different location than the current facility in Redding’s Parkview neighborhood, Storment said. The $10,000, however, will offer some working capital to get the plan moving forward.
Need for such a project is highlighted, Storement said, by the lingering economic recession and a record 17.7 percent unemployment rate in Shasta County.
State figures show the number of unemployed people in Shasta County topped 15,000 in January — an increase of 2,000 from the previous month.
A recent report by the City of Redding and Shasta County Homeless Continuum of Care Council — a government-based group that surveys homelessness — concluded that about 2,450 individuals representing more than 1,700 households were homeless at some point in 2009. Some 539 children were homeless and another 689 were in imminent risk of becoming homeless, the report says.
“The gap between normal society and the poor is shrinking, and it breaks my heart,” Storment said.
The tough economic times mean fewer people can afford to make charitable donations, especially large ones. However, Storment believes that could be a boon for a non-profit restaurant.
“My hope is that the masses see this and that it inspires them to help,” he said. “People would be able to help local people simply by eating out. It creates an easy way for everyone to get involved.”
Reporter Brian Hazle is a Shasta County freelance journalist. He can be reached at 619-822-6868 or firstname.lastname@example.org