Cafe Momentum in Downtown Pittsburgh to Help Teens Involved in Juvenile Justice

Cafe Momentum, an award-winning Dallas restaurant, hires teenagers who have been in juvenile detention facilities as paid interns to handle the business of its restaurant. This culinary training center is set to open a location in Downtown Pittsburgh very soon.

The CEO and founder of Cafe Momentum, Chad Houser, shares with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that Pittsburgh “was selected in part because there was a need for the type of work the program does with teens and an interest within the community to support it.”

Pittsburgh is also becoming more well-known as a “foodie” city. Currently, Cafe Momentum is receiving $650,000 in combined support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Cafe Momentum will employ a program in Pittsburgh similar to what it has been doing in Dallas, though it will be tailored to account for local needs. With this program, the restaurant is estimated to help up to 150 youth in need.

There is a two-week orientation when the teens are given case managers to address their critical needs. The case managers will also help teens establish stability and set personal goals.

Image: Cafe Momentum

During their internship, youth will receive educational help in parenting classes, educational assistance, career exploration and much more, according to their website.

When youth graduate from their internships, they receive a job from one of the nonprofit’s community partners.

“The overall goal is to give them the tools they need to succeed in any career,” Mr. Houser tells the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

The resturant will house some of the space in the building, however, the rest will be a community service center that will help interns with trauma care, legal advocacy, schooling and other needs.

The space is part of the JLL Center mixed use building developed by Millcraft Investments.

“We are thrilled to welcome Cafe Momentum to Pittsburgh. This concept, in conjunction with further investments by our neighbors at PNC, will continue to improve the Wood and Forbes corridor and the whole of Downtown as well,” said Lucas Piatt, Millcraft’s president and chief operating officer. “Bringing a top-notch, nationally known restaurant that gives back to the community is a perfect partner for the long term.”

Mr. Houser founded Cafe Momentum after he left his job as a chef and restaurateur. Since then, the restaurant has served more than 1,000 youth in care and, on average, has doubled teens’ household income. Six years after it’s opening, 100% are either in a high school program or have graduated, and 40% are enrolled in college.

As for the dining itself, Mr. Houser said Cafe Momentum is focused “on being one of the top restaurants in Pittsburgh.”

The goal of the resturant is excellence, because that sets the standard and the expectations for those who will work there.

Image: Cafe Momentum

Thank you, Chad Houser, for providing youth with a vaulable learning opportunity!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of A Second Chance, Inc.

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