Be the Cause

lights on

this past weekend at Lights On was quiet
only a few people were released
but there were 2 people I got to spend a lot of time talking to

one was a girl who spent a month in jail for missing a DUI meeting
she spent those 30 days thinking and getting her life in order
she’s from San Diego but she wants to come back to Santa Ana every weekend to give the girls in jail free color and cuts (she’s a hair stylist) to make them feel pretty :)
the kind of energy she gave off was so positive and wonderful…I am still smiling from it.
when her ride picked her up, she even came back to give us food

another guy stopped by the RV for some coffee, he was an older man who was released from jail a long time ago but lost everything while serving his time and has since been homeless.
he talked about how both of his parents died while he was in prison and he couldn’t do anything about it
his advice: if you have a mother, tell her you love her!!
the more he spoke, the more my heart broke…he was was the sweetest man ever but he’s been through so much
he’d say things like i know it will get better. you guys are here with me tonight i’m so lucky!

it goes both ways, we are so lucky to have each other

curbside philosophy

My strict-traditional-filipino parents have this paranoid notion that I spend my nights talking to men in internet chatrooms, which is RIDICULOUS — I know, since I spend Saturday nights talking to guys outside the Santa Ana jail


on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings, BTC partners up with Saint Vincent De Paul for the Lights On Project, which is a plain humble RV parked down the street from the jail, 11pm-4am almost every night of the year.
People who’ve just been released can stop by to use a cellphone, grab a cup of coffee and some snacks or a cigarette, find a sweatshirt if its cold out, and wait for their rides to pick them up. Completely free.

As a volunteer, it involves a lot of waiting.
Sometimes no one is released until 2 or 3am.

Last Saturday I brought my prep book thinking I might study during down time (applying for a masters in public service). We used the book to prop up a crock pot of soup so that the extension cord could reach the electrical outlet.
Lesson #1: Application is better than theory.
If only I could explain that when I mail in my GRE scores, you know?

Anyhow, when people are finally released, it’s probably not at all what you’re probably thinking it should be.
If you are in any way hesitant about volunteering at Lights On, you might be a little disappointed.
Everyone is pretty normal.

However, last Saturday we did meet someone from an obscure band who could maybe possibly be nominated for a grammy this year!
You heard it here first.

Other brilliant things I heard while sitting on that sidewalk..

(While trying to convince a homeless woman to go to a shelter)
Her response: Don’t worry about me, I’m used to it. I like looking at the stars. I’ve been in jail for a long time, the last thing I want to do is stare at walls right now. I want to look at cute guys.


then I spent most of the night bonding over a bowl of soup with a nice old man named Richard, reminiscing about all the different places we’ve been, and his sister who passed away a long time ago. By the end of the night Richard and I were both wiping our tears on crumpled napkins, and in the background I could hear Supun’s voice asking people if they needed jackets.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

If you’re interested in voluteering, please email

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