Solving homelessness through lettuce

Posted at 7:31 PM, Sep 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-15 22:31:54-04

A local nonprofit organization is trying to help fix San Diego County's homelessness problem -- through lettuce.

When Michael Martinez lost his job in maintenance in 2012, his life quickly unraveled.

"The money ran out, the rent ran out, addiction came up," said Martinez.

Martinez, his wife Sonya and their kids were in a downward spiral.

"They basically ran us out of home; we became homeless," he said.

Today, Martinez is sober and he has a job preparing lettuce at what's called a hydroponic farm on the outskirts of Vista.

However, he doesn't get paid.

"Yes, it is worth it," he said.

So what's in it for him? Solutions for Change, the nonprofit that owns the farm, provides free room and board for him and his family. He also gets renewed employability.

Solutions for Change sells the lettuce to the Vista Unified School District, gets money in return and uses those funds to help more San Diego families get back on their feet.

The hydroponic farm works by raising fish and plants together in water to eliminate toxicity.

Solutions Farms makes 25,000 pounds of lettuce per year. A school district official told 10News the district pays a 20 percent premium for the organic produce.

Chris Megison, the nonprofit's president, said his approach to ending homelessness for families is all about thinking like a businessman.

"It's a solvable problem. It's things like this, where you tap into the power of capitalism that can solve it," he said.

Martinez said he's confident his own dollars will come in the future. But right now he's once again enjoying life.

"It's all good. I've got a roof over my head, what more could I want?" Martinez said.