Homeless in California fight for their right to pizza

September 19, 1993|By Los Angeles Times News Service

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The homeless of Santa Monica have been holding one fine string of pizza parties this summer, some right there on the City Hall lawn.

PTC The host, the city's Pied Piper of Pizza, is Ron Taylor, a self-styled "Dumpster diver" who ekes out a living scavenging through other people's discards. Thus did he discover how the rich folks often threw out Domino's delivery boxes that still contained coupons good for free pizzas, part of a summer promotion by the chain.

Then he decided to spread the wealth.

Collecting the discarded boxes from around Santa Monica, and beyond, he began holding impromptu parties for his fellow homeless travelers: on street corners, in parks and on the City Hall lawn, where many camped out to protest a park closure law.

He ordered up the pizzas, as well, for some reclusive homeless women who shun food lines and normally dine on garbage from && the trash bins.

"I want to show there doesn't have to be a city or county government to help," said Mr. Taylor, a former Bakersfield, Calif., truck driver whose luck turned sour after a 1985 accident. "We can all do it."

For a while it looked like the party was over, however, when a local Domino's began balking at giving away a lot of free pizza to people who weren't, well, paying customers.

But this being California, the Santa Monica City Attorney's office was soon on the case, insisting that the homeless not be denied their free lunch, threatening lawsuits and even confronting Domino's with a "precedent" from pop culture -- how its pizza was delivered to a sewer grate in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

It all began early in the summer, when Domino's started putting "Value Dots" on its pizza boxes, redeemable for a freebie the next time: five dots got you a free medium pizza, seven dots a large one.

The trash from one pizza party alone yielded 28 "Value Dots."

"If they didn't choose to use them," he declared, "I don't see why I can't."

Soon he had 100, he says, then as many as 500.

In the beginning, he had no trouble cashing in the dots. He usually went right into the Domino's at Lincoln and Pico boulevards and ordered his freebie.

Then Domino's balked. Mr. Taylor was told the "Value Dots" were only good for pizzas that were delivered.

No problem, Mr. Taylor figured. He and his friends started calling in and asking that the goodies be delivered to the City Hall lawn, to phone booths and to street corners.

Domino's balked again. A store manager said company policy forbids delivery to such places because they pose a security risk.

But as Mr. Taylor saw it, the message was clear -- that the slogan "Domino's delivers" applied only to those who have roofs over their heads. Finally, Domino's gave in.

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