West Oakland Punks With Lunch: ‘Doing a Human Kindness’

Punks with Lunch (PWL) is doing a lot of much-needed good. Starting as a small operation out of one person’s home, they have since expanded to a full-on warehouse for meal prep, a mobile outreach team, and a safe needle exchange program serving the homeless population of Oakland. The group provides basic necessities with a focus simply on “human kindness.”

The punk pioneers behind this project are Alejandra Del Pinal, Grant Gleason, and Marlo Habeeb. The organization makes about 150 lunches a week and follow two distribution routes in Oakland. Lunches include “a sandwich, fruit, water bottle, snack, and napkin,” at the cost of around a dollar per lunch. To some, it might not sound like much, but to others, this is a day-changer.

Founder Alejandra Del Pinal notes that most of their funds go to food and organizing, but outside of providing lunches, the organization’s volunteers also handout donations, hygiene packs, and dog food. They’re always open to accepting donations. Clothes, feminine hygiene products, water, and clean medical supplies for their harm reduction projects are all immensely helpful.

Availability of these items for distribution depends largely on donations and funding the organization receives. One of their current challenges is not being registered as a 501 c(3) organization; this means that they do not receive federal tax exemption on funding they receive. With limited donations and without the tax advantage that other non-profits enjoy, PWL is continually looking for creative ways to expand their program so they can provide more much-needed resources to the community.

One of the group’s loyal volunteers is Spy Emerson. She is known in San Francisco for the controversial Hook Up Truck, a conceptual “art” installation consisting of a box truck converted to a sex suite on wheels. The truck was not merely a site for safe sex, it also provided birth control and STD preventatives. Emerson has also been involved with Food Not Bombs, an organization that serves nutritious vegan and vegetarian meals to those in need. And now, her Sundays include serving up lunch for Oakland’s homeless population with a gaggle of punks.

As one who is no stranger to press, Emerson adds that positive media coverage is the key to finding funding and gaining community support for fringe organizations like PWL. During our conversation, Emerson emphasized the idea of simply “doing a human kindness.” It doesn’t sit well with her that,“People see these other people and just walk by with no interactions.”

West Oakland Punks With Lunch is focused on creating a culture of nonjudgment and selfless service.

Del Pinal has now updated their fundraiser on Crowd Riser, and tax-deductible donations are being collected as PWL are working toward a goal of $20,000 for this winter season. In Del Pinal’s words, “We really wanna push for winter fundraising so that we can offer a little extra for our participants. We would like to offer hot beverages, blankets, socks, and hand warmers for the people we see this winter. Please help us raise money for that!”

If you are looking to donate or volunteer, visit their website for times and locations. They have volunteers working on Wednesday doing mobile outreach and Sunday doing food preparation and distribution. Bring some closed-toed shoes, a judgment-free attitude, and preparation to grind! Anyone and everyone are welcome to help out—you don’t even need to be a punk.

Today's needle exchange and lunch/clothing station!

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