Hannah and Arson Montoya have started PLC Street Team, a ministry of the Portland Life Center Church, to deliver homemade burritos. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — Arson Montoya has always had “a heart for the homeless,” even as a child who was abused, grew up in and out of orphanages and group homes and was exposed to drug and alcohol abuse, he says. He abused drugs himself and was homeless for close to 20 years.

Now 12 years sober and living on New Gorham Road, Montoya, who is in the process of changing his name to Allen Garcia, and his fiancee Hannah Montoya have started the PLC Street Team, a ministry through Portland Life Center that provides homemade burritos, prayer and compassion to the homeless in Portland.

“When I was little boy, 6 or 7 years old, I would invite homeless people in to shower. When I was at the store, any loose change I had I would give to the homeless,” he said. “My heart for the homeless has been with me since childhood, as long as I can remember.”

Since July, the couple, members of the Portland Life Center nondenominational church at Riverton Elementary School in Portland,  have been spending the fourth Sunday of the month handing out their burritos at the adult shelter on Oxford Street, the family shelter on Chestnut Street, the teen shelter on Preble Street and Milestone Recovery on India Street. Any extra burritos are typically handed to homeless people in and around Congress Street or to the Portland or Westbrook police and fire departments.

Hannah Montoya said it takes the entire day to cook the filling, made with pinto beans, rice, cheese and seasonings, for the 125 to 150 half-pound burritos and several hours to distribute them. The effort is funded through donations.

“This originally was his idea, but we both play our parts in it,” she said. “I do the cooking and he is more the ideas person.”

Since July, the PLC Street Team has delivered hundreds of homemade burritos to homeless shelters in Portland. Courtesy / PLC Street Team

Burritos were the natural choice to bring from shelter to shelter because they are portable, but also have meaning for Arson Montoya.

“I am half Mexican and identify as Mexican. Burritos have always been something that reminds me of family, friends and getting together. Burritos are easily carried and it seemed like the perfect food to give to the homeless,” he said.

Joseph McNally, Milestone Recovery’s director of community outreach,  said a small gesture like a free burrito can go a long way.

“It is often the smallest acts that have the biggest impact,” he said.

“Anytime we get donations of any kind, they are always appreciated. Our clients are often pretty vulnerable, so when folks can take time out of their day and do something like this, it not only helps us as an agency, it helps our clients as well,” McNally said.

The PLC Street Team is more than just about food. Praying with the homeless and making sure they know they are not alone and forgotten is also a big part of its mission. Montoya said his success in getting off the streets, getting sober and finding religion has inspired him to do everything he can to help the homeless population.

The couple’s dream is for the PLC Street Team to become a 501c3 and work with other agencies to help homeless people get access to things like counseling, financial training, rehabilitation and other services.

“I would love to get to the point where we can help people off the streets,” Arson Montoya said.

For more information about the PLC Street Team visit its Facebook page or email [email protected]

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