Homeless Cafes

790 Words4 Pages
Homeless Cafes There seems to be a welcome trend unfolding in social services for the homeless. In place of large, impersonal soup kitchens, small cafes are springing up with a philosophy that is all too rare-treat the homeless with respect and dignity, and maybe they'll respond to available services. It began with Cafe 458 in Atlanta in 1988, which since has served as a model for similar cafes across the country. Cafe 458 was founded to serve good meals to small groups of homeless individuals, offer a comprehensive array of services, and empower those who eat at the Cafe. Part of its strategy to empower homeless persons is to treat them with dignity-the staff refer to those who eat there as guests, not clients, food is served on real dishes, artwork adorns the walls, and fresh flowers brighten each table. The Cafe serves only 28 guests at a time, all of whom are referred by area social service agencies. To be referred to the Cafe, clients must not be actively using drugs, have no recent history of violence, and have a strong desire to improve their lives. On the average, guests regularly eat at the Cafe for six months before they are able to find employment and/or housing. Since 1988, Cafe 458 has served only 1,000 people, but the staff considers its small numbers its strength. As Nancy Palchanis, executive director, explains, "It is not a feeding program. It is about empowerment. Soup kitchens feed too many people. Our advantage is in the small size." The small size of Cafe 458, and others like it, is translating into success in the lives of their guests . For example, The Bread and Roses Cafe, run by a social service agency in Venice, California, enrolls some of its clients in a six-week intensive course in restaurant work and 20 hours of on-thejob training. Sixty-seven of the 112 people who have completed the program are now employed by restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Fortunately for some of Chicago's homeless, they too have a similar place to turn-Inspiration Cafe, located in the Uptown community. Since 1991, Inspiration Cafe has served good-tasting and healthy meals to homeless individuals in Uptown and has provided them with a variety of comprehensive services. The Cafe was founded by Lisa Nigro, a former homeless in her community. Nigro began feeding the homeless in Uptown by carting around a red wagon filled with bagels and juice that she would serve to people waiting in lines at local shelters and soup kitchens.
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