Berkeley woman makes it her mission to bring soup to the homeless

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - There are an estimated 4,260 homeless men and women in Alameda County, according to the last available count the county conducted in 2013.

There are shelters, churches and community groups that make it their mission to help the homeless, but one Berkeley woman decided to take matters into her own hands, one cup of soup at a time.

Every Thursday and Sunday evenings, Barbara Brust prepares a feast for 50 of her friends.

"They are my brothers and sisters on the street," she said.

On Thanksgiving a couple years ago, she bought a 25 pound turkey and ended up with some extra food and extra time. She decided she wanted to do something with it.

"Everybody says, go serve the soup kitchens over the holidays, and that didn't have any appeal for me," Brust said. "You don't really interact with the people, everyone's going down the line."

So, Brust decided to become her own, mobile soup kitchen.

A year and a half later, "this is like an obsession," she said.

Brust cooks soup to deliver directly to the homeless.

She sends out requests for help on the social media site, Nextdoor, asking for volunteers. People like Sonia Jacques of Albany, who responded to one of those requests a couple months ago, have now become her friends; sharing her passion.

"It's very gratifying," Jacques said. "I really feel I get more out of it than I'm putting into it."

Jacques and Brust spent about two hours in Brust's kitchen making Pozole Verde with New Mexico Hatch chilies from scratch. Once the soup is done, Barbara packs up her '89 ford escort, which she outfitted with a special, "spill-proof" table.

Her first stop of the evening is the steps of Veterans Memorial Hall in Berkeley.

"I have hot soup!" Brust announces to a crowd of people. One by one, people begin lining up outside her car.

Brust said she will typically make 10 to 12 stops a night. Along with giving out soup, she also keeps shoes, clothes and blankets in the trunk of her car to hand out.

"I have a commitment to do this and I'm good for my word," Brust said.

A commitment that's appreciated by the people she tries to help.

"Every week it helps. Every time she comes by it helps," said David Heyde, as he sipped some of Brust's soup.

"My opinion is that she does it out of love," said homeless veteran Mark Anthony Trimble.

Brust said she empathizes with the people she meets, because she said she could have ended up in their shoes.

"I'm actually a recovering alcoholic and addict myself," she said.

Brust has been sober now for 25 years. This project, and the organization she's trying to create, called "Homeless Lives Matter" is now, her new high.