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Why this coffee shop only employs homeless people

When Seth and Kelly Kelley went to a heated neighborhood meeting, they were surprised by the negative reaction some had to plans for a new low-income housing project for the homeless. The Colorado couple decided to do something about it.

The Kelleys got the idea to open Redtail Coffee, a small coffee shop that employs the homeless. "The couple was surprised to hear the negative stereotypes and fears some of their neighbors had related to the project," The Coloradoan reported.

The shop's website states: "Our small coffee shop serves a much larger purpose. Our new employees will be hired exclusively from the population served in the Red Tails project. Thus, when you buy a coffee or muffin from RedTail Coffee you are helping to provide job training, business skills, and a career to the homeless in our community."

"They hope their mission-based hiring will serve as an example for community members and businesses," The Coloradoan reported.

"When people come through our shop and have a positive experience, we can challenge those stereotypes," Seth told The Coloradoan. "We also want to show that a for-profit can serve a social purpose."

Seth also told thinkprogress.org that he hopes the shop "challenges the idea that people who are homeless are lazy or just aren't working hard enough."

And the social entrepreneur says the employee he hired who is homeless is an "incredible guy." "You would never know he was homeless," Seth told Think Progress. Plus, the employee works harder than anyone else.

"Every morning, for instance, he has to wait in line at the shelter to get a shower, which needs to be done early enough to grab breakfast, which has to be done early enough to catch the bus across town in order to get to work on time," Think Progress writer Scott Keyes reports.

Think Progress also reports that even though it's only been three months since opening, RedTail Coffee is already turning a profit. "Even as homeless people face steep challenges from potential employers, the Kelleys are showing that it can actually pay well to do good," Keyes writes.

amcdonald@deseretnews.com Twitter | @amymcdonald89