Have you ever wondered if it is possible for children coming out of juvenile detention centers to just get a job and what their future holds? If they do get a job, are they going to be committed to it? Will customers feel safe in an environment where there is troubled youth? What is life going to look like for children who leave a juvenile detention center and have nowhere to work?
There is a place and non-profit which is dedicated to transforming the lives of at-risk children through employment. The place is Cafe Momentum, a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, that provides a transforming experience for children coming out of juvenile facilities. The young men and women go through a 12-month paid post-release internship program, which revolves around learning all aspects of the restaurant business, focusing on life, learning different social skills, mentoring, and development. This is an environment where these children have a place to better themselves, get set on the right path in life, and achieve their full potential. Café Momentum, in collaboration with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, aims to show their interns that it is possible to break the cycle of violence and crime in their lives.
Cafe Momentum is a nonprofit restaurant that instituted a game-changing process for those coming out of juvenile centers. The program begins with a 2-week orientation in which the interns learn basic needs, learn to create stability in their lives, and create a goal sheet that will eventually get them on the correct path and get on a better start for adulthood. The interns get the opportunity to work in all different areas in the Restaurant, such as legal employment, social skills, and life skills as well. The interns also learn job skills as they take responsibility for different tasks within the restaurant including cleaning, serving, and cooking. Aside from employment opportunities, these young men and women are put in an environment to help with anger management, trauma recovery, fatherlessness, and abandonment. After the 12-month process, the interns graduate from this internship and are then placed with a community partner. This program helps their graduates to find employment, earn a living and be able to pay their taxes, and become productive contributing members of society.
The cafe is more than just a restaurant; and it is a classroom for these troubled youths. Not only are these young men and women creating tasty dishes and giving a friendly experience to the customers, but that they can believe that they can achieve something greater for themselves than what they thought was possible.
English lit major turned chef, restauranteur, and nonprofit founder, Chad Houser describes “My priority in social innovation must center around creating ideas for lasting change.” Houser is the founder of Café Momentum and is able to change young men's and women's lives who are in the criminal justice system. Houser plans to take this concept nationwide. Houser created the Momentum Advisory Collective (M.A.C.) to help open restaurants and community service centers in ten markets. The Stand Together Foundation, located in Arlington, Virginia, works to end the cycle of poverty by partnering with other non-profit organizations. The Stand Together Foundation contributed $1.9 million to M.A.C.. Momentum Advisory Collective's goal is to reduce the number of youth who are lost to the cycle of incarceration. Houser believes that changing the model of juvenile justice could save between $8 billion to $21 billion per year. 1
1. Sandra Engelland, “Can Restaurants Revolutionize the Juvenile Justice System? This Dallas Chef Turned Nonprofit Leader Is Bettin On It” Mar 11, 2021 https://cafemomentum.org/uncategorized/can-restaurants-revolutionize-the-juvenile-justice-system-this-dallas-chef-turned-nonprofit-leader-is-betting-on-it/