A restaurant in downtown San Diego is helping homeless youths and young adults get a new start in life by learning skills that also make the whole world a better place: making pizza.

Urban Street Angels, a shelter for homeless teenagers, shares a building with Timmy’s Place, a mission-driven pizzeria serving global fusion pizzas like the Somali Stew and the Spicy Thai Chicken.

The Lucky Duck Foundation and the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC) teamed up to create Timmy’s Place, with help from a donation by the Rolf Benirschke Legacy Foundation. Benirschke was a placekicker for the San Diego Chargers who also briefly hosted the daytime version of Wheel of Fortune in 1989. He hosts an annual golf tournament to support area nonprofits.

Benirschke and his wife, Mary, decided some of the funds raised by their tournament should go to launch Timmy’s Place, which is named after their son, who faced addiction and homelessness in the past.

Young people living at the Urban Street Angels shelter can earn money and develop artisanal pizza-making skills at Timmy’s Place or learn how to create custom-made T-shirts, tote bags and mugs at the café’s print shop.

On the pizza side, they’re not just cranking out your standard pepperoni pies. Timmy’s Place is a fusion-food hotspot, with specialty pizzas like the Somali Stew (mozzarella, Somali Xawaash braised beef stew with potatoes and carrots and cilantro) and the Spicy Thai Chicken (mozzarella, Thai chili chicken, garlic, red onions, a sweet and salty sauce, fried egg and basil). The menu also features the Mexican Pie (chorizo sauce, mozz, jalapeños, red onions, a smoky chipotle sauce, cotija cheese and cilantro) as well as a more traditional Margherita, a Pepperoni & Cheese and a White Pizza (garlic sauce, ricotta, mozz, spinach and cherry tomatoes). The pizzas come in extra-large (18”) and ¼ sizes.

Sandwiches on the menu include a Pastrami, Italian Sub, Turkey Pesto and others. The restaurant also serves pastries and coffee drinks in the mornings and caters private events.

A young woman named Jasmine became the first employee at Timmy’s Place when it opened in May 2023. She had experienced unstable housing for most of her life and lived on the streets before Urban Street Angels took her in and Timmy’s Place hired her.

She still works at the pizza shop today and is now self-sufficient, she told CBS 8 recently. “It was really such a big surprise, and I finally started to get on my feet,” she said. “I was coming from a bad situation with my aunt and uncle and homelessness. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity, especially since I’m the facility lead and assistant manager here.”

And that’s what Timmy’s Place is really all about. “Our goal for everything we do, whether it’s the pizzeria or the print shop, is hiring you for not only just a good-paying job, but a sustainable job…where you could transfer these skills” to other employers, UPAC Director Dante Dauz told San Diego’s NBC 7 last year.

In the San Diego NBC 7 interview, Jasmine noted, “I’m dreaming big, honestly, because of Timmy’s Place and Urban Street Angels. My future looks really, really great.”

Pizza News, Pizzerias