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Tracey Porter is the founder of Food Trucks Against Homelessness. She started the organization in 2021 with her wife, Marcy Langlois.
Why did you start Food Trucks Against Homelessness?
The COVID economic crisis inspired my wife and I to start talking to food trucks and help them out in the small business community. We were like, “Why don’t we take the food trucks to Westside Cares? And take care of our houseless neighbors?” So that’s what we did — and then it just blew up. It’s necessary, right? We have to help other humans, and our houseless neighbors need human connection on top of the food, on top of the clothing, on top of the shelter that’s necessary. I’ve always had a big heart for those that are underserved within our community and elsewhere, so that’s pretty much how it started. My wife and I have just done really well. I’ve always worked hard and obtained several properties so we have this residual income. [Marcy] has been a loan officer for 20 years. So it’s just that hard work to get us to a position where we’re financially secure, where we can then turn around and help others.
What does the community feel like at Westside Cares when you’re there on Mondays?
At first it was really interesting because the executive director said that not everybody’s gonna give you their name. Some people want anonymity, just like housed people want anonymity. At first it was just handing out food. Today, I know names, I know peoples’ life stories, I know reasons why they ended up homeless. Now I have three volunteers. It’s really cool because I get the ability to interact with people, to create human connection — that’s the best thing ever. It’s not robotic anymore. People expect me. I just recently went to have an emergency appendectomy and they were asking about me. People were checking in on me. I mean, we’re in a relationship now — which is absolutely beautiful.
How do you get the word out to vendors and people experiencing homelessness about services through Food Trucks Against Homelessness?
Because I partner with Westside Cares, it guarantees us at least serving 60 to 100 people. So they help to get the word out, and also social media — Facebook. How do I get food trucks to come? Same thing. On Facebook I ask them to give up their labor for free, and we will pay for the cost of food and supplies. Most of the time I pay minimally, or they donate. Then I can offer them a donation letter to help with their taxes.
What was it like to be in charge of Food Trucks Against Homelessness as it grew?
It was really exciting at first when it was growing, because I do everything. Really the hardest part is getting the food trucks and getting the money. I’m trying to find an easier way to get money coming through the door and in order to do that, I need to be a 501(c)(3). Or I have to change what I’m doing and program within somebody [else’s] nonprofit. My biggest challenge right now is not existing as a 501(c)(3) and maybe getting into the grant side of things. We’re actually in the midst of figuring out what we’re going to do with that. Either we’re going to become a 501(c)(3), or get involved internally with a nonprofit.
How do you fundraise?
Facebook is where I ask for money. Also constantly going out and doing social events. I’m an introvert by nature, but I love gatherings and stuff like that. I have a little bit of extrovert in me, so I just sign up for almost anything and everything around town. If I talk to one or two people then there goes the word, and hopefully in comes the money. But it’s really just that — social events and asking for money on Facebook. We have PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, and I have QR codes on my business cards that I leave everywhere. It’s just me putting out the word.