A restaurant in Mexico City has developed an innovative system to help the homeless: Pixza gives a slice of pizza to a homeless person for every five slices that are sold. Since 2015, the restaurant has also been offering a social program to assist the homeless and marginalized youth of the area with a life-skills program designed to help young people find employment and opportunities.
The project was developed by Alejandro Souza, who had the idea when he was living in New York and studying for a Masters at Columbia University. Missing Mexican food, Souza wondered if Mexican blue-corn tortillas could be adapted and turned into a pizza crust. But creating innovative pizza was not Souza’s only objective. He realized that if he opened a restaurant, it could become a platform for social change in his native Mexico.
“For me, it was always very important that any project that I started had a social cause and offered some solution to a social issue,” Souza told the Mexican newspaper El Universal. “From the beginning, Pixza was born as a social enterprise.”
The first element of Pixza’s social program starts in the shop. Whenever customers buy five slices of blue-corn pizza, a slip of paper is set aside. Every week, these slips are counted, and the slices for the homeless are delivered to a shelter. At the shelter, Pixza workers hand out the free pizza and share information about Pixza’s reinsertion program, which could result in a job at the restaurant. Known as the “Root of Change,” the program encourages young people to carry out volunteer work in the community.
“The objective is to rehumanize and dignify the person so they can fulfil their potential, feeling much more comfortable with who they are,” Souza told Vice Magazine.
The young people are also given the opportunity for a haircut, showers, new clothing, and a doctor’s appointment, which are available because local businesses and individuals volunteer to help the program. If they make it through these steps and complete a life-skills training course, Pixza offers them employment.
A new start
Once a young person starts a job at Pixza, they are assigned a mentor who provides support and organizational knowhow. The new employee is given some financial support for housing and encouraged to plan for a future beyond Pixza. Training and career prospects are discussed, so the new employee has the tools to break the cycle of unemployment and homelessness.
Amazingly, none of the funding for Pixza’s impressive program comes from outside – pizza funds all of its initiatives. Positive press attention and word of mouth have helped bring the customers in and the company has now expanded to open a second outlet. As Souza told El Universal, “Pixza is a platform for social change disguised as a pizza restaurant.”
Which city has asked its residents not to give to the homeless?