While most students’ alarms haven’t even gone off, civil engineering freshman Joshua Garza wakes up at 4 a.m. twice a week to serve breakfast to the homeless.
Feed My People, a nonprofit which is part of Foundation for the Homeless, serves breakfast to approximately 300 homeless people every Tuesday and Thursday at First United Methodist Church. The program, which collaborates with 15 religious congregations in Austin, allows any community member to volunteer.
Garza said he began serving breakfast in March and thought it was a good way to make people feel valued.
“There’s no one that’s in more need of self-esteem and value in society than homeless people because we devalue them so much in society,” Garza said.
Garza said he became involved with the project after volunteering at the breakfast with his twin brother, who now goes to Texas A&M University.
Pam King-Wachholz, communications and events manager at Foundation for the Homeless, said the program began serving breakfast at the church 12 years ago. Twice a week, a different church provides eggs, biscuits, gravy, coffee, milk and orange juice to those in need starting at 5 a.m. and ending when food runs out.
According to Ann Teich, board member of Feed My People, approximately 30 volunteers attend on average. Ten to 20 of those volunteers are UT students. King-Wachholz said the organization has had to turn down volunteers because of the large number of people who come in to help.
Garza said he has noticed the growing number of student volunteers, many of whom are in fraternities and sororities and earn volunteer hours through the program. The number of people who volunteer dramatically lowers on colder days, especially during the inclement weather last week, Garza said.
“It’s something that I find very important,” Garza said. “Oftentimes, students are there to get the hours, and we need more people that are willing to connect. However, it’s great that they are serving because we really need the people.”
According to a report by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of transients has decreased by 15 percent since 2010, but Texas transients still account for 5 percent of the population of U.S. transients.
Teich said the number of homeless people coming in for breakfast has steadily declined over the past few years, when it used to be almost 400 people each morning. She said she believes the decline may be because of how many more options are available to help the homeless population.
Although there has been an influx of volunteers and a decline in the amount of homeless people coming in for food, Garza said he plans to continue to serve food at the church throughout his college career.
“I want to stay involved in the community,” Garza said. “That’s just something I’ve been bred to do through my parents.”