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Storeys Cafe 'caters' for recovering addicts with healthy, no frills food

Social enterprise cafe employs people re-entering workforce from addiction recovery

Marnie Plant, left, and Brenda Plant, right, are sisters who have developed a social enterprise cafe where profits are to be diverted to subsidized housing for recovering addicts at Turning Point. Graeme Wood photo

Richmond’s newest “non-profit, social enterprise” café is heading into its first summer with an eye on expanding its catering business.

Storeys Café, located at 8080 Anderson Road near Richmond City Hall, launched last September. The café seats about two dozen people and is tucked beneath the 129 unit, 15-storey tower that houses folks from non-profit groups Turning Point, S.U.C.C.E.S.S, Tikva Housing, Coast Mental Health and Pathways Clubhouse.

The café operates as a non-profit whose goal is to assist recovering addicts staying at Storeys. Café operator, Turning Point, hopes to offer job training at the café to two people, at one time, who live in the Storeys building, which houses people with vulnerabilities, such as poverty, addiction, mental health problems and abuse. It has already helped two recovering addicts gain employment elsewhere on their road to recovery, according to Brenda Plant, executive director of Turning Point.

“We know that a big part of the success in recovering from addictions is to get re-engaged in the community and get employment skills. So we wanted a space where our clients, who are living in Storeys and participating in our comprehensive after-care program, would get hands-on employment skills,” said Plant.

But more is expected from the café, which is quickly gaining a foot hold in the local market, especially with non-profit workers at Storeys and bureaucrats at city hall (even city councillors are using the café for meetings).

Meanwhile, Plant is eyeballing a few nearby developments to target construction workers as potential customers.

Plant’s sister Marnie Plant is Turning Point’s special projects manager who hopes to launch a successful catering service out of the cafe.

“People have shown a lot of excitement around the catering. The cooking here has been great and we’ve put together a new menu for catering,” said Marnie.

The target clientele is small businesses and organizations hosting community events.

The menu is no frills, simple and healthy. It includes sandwiches ($8 each) and salads ($5) plus deserts ($2) and simple beverages. For example, there’s the vegetarian (chickpea avocado hummus with pesto, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and Swiss cheese) and turkey club sandwiches that can be served with a beet and arugula salad and a lemon square.

By having clients work at the café it is hoped they can re-engage with the community — a vital process in the road to recovery, according to Turning Point’s model.

“If you can keep someone engaged for five years in (social) services at some level, the success rate goes up exponentially. Our units here are meant for people who will be here for 2-3 years with the idea that they would transition into (subsidized) housing, if they aren’t ready for market housing,” said Brenda.

Presently, 10 Turning Point clients pay about $750 in rent each at Storeys, which is a considerable sum given their situation. Such a rate is only feasible for a small number of clients at Turning Point, which operates a number of recovery houses in the Lower Mainland, including two in Richmond (aside from Storeys). Brenda said with a profitable catering business, the society could subsidize the units to closer to welfare rates ($375). Marnie also wants to use some profits for back-to-work and volunteer programs.

Ironically the success at Storeys for Turning Point comes from a failure to get a new recovery house on Ash Street about 12 years ago.

Met with neighbourhood opposition Turning Point packed up its rezoning application and looked elsewhere. Brenda said it led to the unique, five non-profit society agreement at Storeys.

Symbolic of the years of political wrangling Storeys took to develop, Brenda has framed a number of bureaucratic reports in the café.

“Storeys is evidence that you can have an affordable housing development for some of the most vulnerable citizens across the street from city hall and there’s no increased risk for property crime or anything going on. That’s not to say there haven’t been police calls. …However calls to Storeys have gone down exponentially since opening,” she said.

Brenda noted developments such as temporary modular housing on Elmbridge Way should provide similar benefits.

Reposted from Richmond News


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