New Brunswick

Inspiration Café offers staff more than a workplace

Inspiration Café in Moncton doesn't just provide good meals and drinks, it also provides people with a way to connect while gaining confidence and work skills.

Café opened to help provide work and life skills

Inspiration Café barista Emma Blair and staff member Madeline Mitton give a thumbs up after a successful training session. (Radio-Canada)

A new café in Moncton is not just providing good meals and drinks, it's also providing people with a way to integrate into society while gaining confidence and work skills. 

Inspiration Café, which opened in late November, was inspired by Debbie McInnis, United Way's executive director in Moncton.

She wanted to help people with mental illness, and those who were homeless, learn new skills so they could join the workforce.

Using grant money from a housing-first strategy program, McInnis visited similar cafés across Canada. After working with several local partners, the café became a reality.

"Here we are, the café's open and we are running and some people can't believe it," said Rachel Scoville, the café's program manager. 

The café is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Storage area to café 

The café is located in what was a storage area in the basement of the Community Peace Centre. 

Inspiration Café is located in the basement of the Community Peace Centre in Moncton and is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Radio-Canada)

"It was a huge storage space down here full of stuff from the church upstairs and it was transformed into this beautiful space."

In her role, Scoville works with agencies to assist people who need employment.

"Not only will our participants learn life skills, but they'll learn the culinary, they'll learn the barista, they'll learn more front of house. I've been doing training."

'Giving me a chance'

Scoville said two program participants have been serving and have reached a point where she is comfortable allowing them do it on their own.

Madeline Mitton said working at the Inspiration Café is a perfect fit for her. (Radio-Canada)

Madeline Mitton, one of the staff members, describes herself as a jack of all trades when working at the café. 

"I do whatever they need me to do. Sometimes I do the dishes in the back. Today I was trying the coffee. Rachel helps me in the front with serving customers. I've done prep work and I've done baking." 

Mitton said she loves to be around people and says the café is a perfect fit for her. 

"It's a positive working environment. If you're doing something that's not quite right, they'll show you how to do it the right way. They'll tell you until you get it and I'm the type of person who learns by doing, so I need that." 

Out of work since January 2017, Mitton said she sought a job, but no one would hire her because of her disability.

But after hearing about the café and going through the interview process, she got a job. 

"They're giving me a chance to do something. This is a positive environment. When you're dealing with depression and anxiety you need a place that is positive and the people here are great." 

Customers need patience

Rachel Scoville, program co-ordinator at the Inspiration Café, said staff can learn a variety of life and work skills at the café. (Radio-Canada)

​Scoville said they are hoping to hire more program participants in the next month. Potential staff members can either be referred or apply in person and are hired after an interview process. 

"People need to understand when coming here we are a café and we're trying to get the food out quickly, but we also have people who have barriers to employment who haven't worked for a long time. So we also have to have people with some patience … when they come in so we can teach these people how to work." 

Inspiration Café helps people with varying issues learn both life and work skills. (Inspiration Café/Facebook)

For Scoville, a trained chef who worked for the province's Food Security Action Network for a year, working at the café helps to get to the root cause of poverty. It provides work to people who want to help themselves and now can by receiving a regular paycheque.

"It's that circle, for me, it's just perfect." 

Scoville said some people will be encouraged to move on to other jobs once they've received the training they need. 

"It's just that stepping stone that we want to implement and also life skills — anger management, working with others, respecting your peers — all of that learning to deal with your emotions so that when you go into another work place you have that." 

With files from Alessandra Rigano, Radio Canada