Local restaurant giving free meals to homeless & less fortunate patrons
DENHAM SPRINGS - As a popular restaurant in Denham Springs, Papi's Mexican Cuisine has seen a lot of customers, including some who can't afford to eat there.
"These people, when they come, they're homeless, they don't have any money," owner Alejandro Ortiz said. "Sometimes they don't have any dignity because they've been asking for stuff. So I was like how can I make it a little better for them, even if it's just for a little while, a little moment?"
Ortiz felt he needed to help these people and came up with an idea of how to do just that. Inside the restaurant is a wall with a message inviting those with little or no money to grab a meal ticket.
Anyone can walk in and grab a prepaid ticket, no questions asked. That ticket will allow them to enjoy a hot meal with full service.
"And they feel, even for a moment, that they have all of their dignity back. They're not begging for nothing. They just come in here, get a ticket and they eat," Ortiz said.
Ortiz started giving out the tickets three months ago by paying for the meals himself, but it eventually took off with help of loyal customers.
"The first tickets, it was me and my family basically. But as time went on, people saw this and other customers started paying for tickets."
He says they've served roughly 60 people with the ticket system.
"Some people always tell me somebody might abuse it a little bit, and I see people that maybe don't need it... But you never know when somebody needs a break."
And Ortiz knows helping that person who needs a break is worth it, as they often let him know how much it means.
"This man, this homeless man, gave me the most real hug I've ever had in so long. I mean he made me basically cry."
Papi's will soon be rebranded as Tortilla Soup, but the ticket system is expected to continue all the same.