Victor Rivera from the Bronx man is paying it forward, using his past hardships to help others move forward, by providing free warm meals.
Loving Arms Soup Kitchen in Manhattan welcomed the public in with open arms this past New Year’s Day.
The founder, Rivera is personally connected to this issue, as he was in his clients’ shoes not too long ago.
“I know what it is to be hungry. I know what it is to be homeless and I know what it is to be judged in the greatest city in the world,” Victor Rivera of the Bronx Parent Housing Network said.
Today, Rivera is the president and CEO of social services organization, the Bronx Parent Housing Network.
Before that, he was homeless, incarcerated, and illiterate.
Since getting back on his feet, Rivera has made it a life-long mission to make sure no one has to go through similar pain, he went through as well.
“The first client we served I instantly had a connection because I remember the first day that I had my first soup as a homeless individual.”
The brand new soup kitchen sits on First Avenue in between East 85th and 86th Streets on the Upper East Side.
It will be open for lunch and dinner every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – offering a hot, healthy meals and drinks.
Just knowing someone cares means everything, said Rivera
Rivera says the majority of the clients are not homeless but food insecure – struggling due to the city’s high cost of living.
He expects to serve as many as 200 pre-packaged meals every week.
The location and food was funded in part by an anonymous donor. It’s also being supported by the city council and, as of now, is funded through the end of the year.
About Victor Rivera:
President & CEO, Victor Rivera, who is one of the founders of BPHN, vividly recounts his desperation and despondence which is not unlike the situations of the hundreds of homeless persons BPHN has serviced from the inception. It is this very personal commitment at the very top of the organizational structure that drives how homeless persons are handled – very carefully and with utmost respect.
It’s been a long time coming for Mr. Rivera, with many trials and tribulations; he is the man he is today because of this experience. It has never been an easy road, and he too has had his fair share of troubles with the law; substance use, gang violence, and homelessness, but is not ashamed to tell people where he comes from. Why? Because he knows that there are other people like himself who have been through the dirt and felt like there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, and he wants everyone to know that there is! You can get through anything!
Mr. Rivera went back to school, obtained his degree and even pursued his master’s degree in Public Administration at MCNY. He was the Program Director for The Housing Options and Geriatric Association Resources (H.O.G.A.R) HIV Transitional Program incorporated in 1996. H.O.G.A.R’s mission was to assist the community’s most marginalized; the elderly, extremely mentally ill adults, homeless people and persons living with HIV. In his current role as CEO of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, he provides clients with the resources that they will need to break the cycle of chronic homelessness, chemical dependency, employment security, and domestic violence.