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June 30, 2015

Malcolm Charles in front of food truckMalcolm Charles understands his customers like few other servers can.

“I’ve been homeless before,” shares Malcolm, who is currently working on a food truck that specializes in serving the homeless population.

Malcolm was attending Diego Valley Charter School to study for the GED when he dropped out to focus on improving his living situation and finding work. Due to complications from these and other struggles, he was asked to leave his transitional housing. For a few months, he had nowhere to call home.

With the help of Access Inc., Malcolm found his way.

Malcolm, now 22, first came to Access as a youth participant in its Independent Living Skills/Workforce Investment Act (ILS/WIA) program, which offers case management services and workforce preparations to current and former foster youth age 16-21. The mission of Access is to provide access to education, workforce training and support services that empower youth and adults in transition to achieve self-sufficiency and economic independence. The ILS/WIA program is jointly supported by SDWP and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).

Malcolm’s successes have been steady since participating in Access programs and events such as job-readiness training and job fairs. Once settled in his new home and with assistance from Access, Malcolm returned to his studies and passed the GED on his first try.

After passing the GED, Malcolm participated in the Hospitality Career Academy where he earned the nationally recognized Dining Room Apprentice certification. Putting these skills to use, Malcolm has recently been interning with the FRESH food truck, a project of local nonprofit Dreams for Change.

“They tell me everything,” Malcolm says, referring to his customers at the food truck. “Some of these people haven’t had a warm meal in a month. They normally would have to get pizza at convenience stores for that.”

Aside from serving nutritional hot meals to homeless populations since 2012, the truck also acts as an advertising vehicle (quite literally) for assistance programs that many may not know about, and offers skills training for small business development.

Currently working as stocker and server for the truck, Malcolm is learning skills such as restaurant management, food distribution and procurement, and culinary job training.

As his internship comes to a close, he recalls some of his favorite moments, including being recognized on public transit by his customers, who would say hello and tell him how much they appreciate the food truck.

Now that Malcolm has had some real-life work experience, he plans to start another internship in the summer and attend community college in the fall, studying electrical engineering.

“I’ve always loved putting stuff together,” says Malcolm.

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