The OC Burrito Project Hopes to Solve the Homeless Crisis One Burrito at a Time

Garrett Dunbar Hopes Burritos Will Get Us One Step Closer to Solving Homelessness

Written By: Erica Johnson
Photographed By: Ed Visions


When I walk into the 4th Street Market kitchen to interview Garrett Dunbar, all is quiet. The preparations for the evening’s OC Burrito Project are just starting and the volunteers have not yet begun to arrive. Little do I know that in just a few short minutes, I will see this unassuming, sweet, young man transform into a modern-day superhero. I’m sure Garrett would probably cringe at that analogy, but I saw it with my own eyes—he is a powerhouse; a force to be reckoned with and his vision just might change how the world views solutions to the homeless crisis.

The OC Burrito Project began in 2015 when Garrett—who was in law school gearing up to follow in his father’s footsteps—was a County Counsel intern. Going to the Civic Center daily meant getting an up-close look at Orange County’s homeless, and also seeing that the county wasn’t doing much about it. “I asked the sheriff’s department who their homeless liaison officer was and they told me to contact the OC Department of Mental Health, who then referred me to their website and all the links on the website were broken. It was clear that the issue was not a priority,” said Garrett.

Garrett and his then fiancé started out with just six people making burritos in his apartment with a goal to feed those in need. Burritos are a simple, delicious and cost-effective way to accomplish this goal, and after the first night, Garrett knew that it was not only doable but also a great way to bring people together. The project grew through social media and word of mouth, and eventually, the number of volunteers jumped to over 100. Success meant a bigger space was required and the 4th Street Market turned out to be the perfect spot. “We make about 350 burritos and we just walk directly into the Civic Center and help everyone that we can. They are our neighbors and need to know that we care and want to engage with them.”

The OC Burrito Project may be about feeding people, but it’s also about providing a few basic needs with goodie bags that contain toiletry items and non-perishable snacks. Donations of socks, blankets, clothing, shoes and even pet food are also highly encouraged. “We bring some short-term solutions out to the people while we wait for more permanent solutions to develop,” Garrett said.

These outreach events happen monthly and have become so popular that there are not only civic-minded individuals participating, but groups and corporate teams as well. Assembly lines are formed for making the burritos, organizing and making the goodie bags as well as sorting clothes. The process usually takes about two hours before the group walks out to the Civic Center to distribute what has been created, “It really opens people’s eyes and it’s wonderful to see how it changes their perceptions of what ‘homeless’ really is,” Garrett explained.

With his law degree and her degree in social work, Garrett and his wife have great plans for the future that will make for an unbeatable combination to make some much-needed changes happen. One day, they would like to go into developing their own housing program, combining a shelter with wrap-around services like mental health counseling, job training, placement and basic life skills. With all the good he is doing, Garrett keeps it simple; “We just go by the old saying ‘treat people the way you, yourself would like to be treated.’ If you can do that, then that’s the best that you could possibly do.”

Health Fiend: With healthy choices in mind, and after hearing feedback, Garrett decided that the burritos would be vegan, dairy free and big on taste.

Native Knowledge: For every dollar given to OC Burrito Project’s annual fund, you’ll give a burrito to someone in need

OC Burrito Project@ocburritoproject

Photoshoot Location:
East End Kitchens
4th Street Market
201 E 4th St
Santa Ana CA 92701

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