Mission Possible Cafe will help Phoenix homeless reenter the workforce

Phoenix Rescue Mission will open a restaurant on the corner of 15th Avenue and Van Buren Street on Oct. 2. The restaurant will have a purpose beyond making a profit: Helping train homeless people in the downtown Phoenix area to get into the workforce.

The restaurant, Mission Possible Cafe, is the latest addition to Phoenix Rescue Mission’s programs. A Christian charitable organization, Phoenix Rescue Mission provides programs for the homeless population in Phoenix, including substance abuse help.

Nicole Pena, Phoenix Rescue Mission’s director of public relations, said she has seen a shift in the homeless population over the last five years. Pena said the people who used to participate in the organization’s sobriety programs were often older men who knew trades, such as electrical work, and could go back to them after getting sober. However, that is no longer the case.

“Most of the people who are in our two centers are mid-20s, they had very severe drug addictions to methamphetamine, or heroin or prescription pills, and they don’t have education, and they’ve never had a job,” Pena said.

She said the organization helps people through a sobriety program to get rid of their addictions, obtain a high school diploma or GED if they never graduated and participate in vocational programs.

The program for workers at Mission Possible Cafe will last eight months. Participants will first learn the skills needed to work in a restaurant for four months, followed by four months of work in the cafe.

The cafe will have 16 program participants at a time working there, spread over two shifts per day, and will have management come in the form of interns from Grand Canyon University’s hospitality management program.

Pena said the restaurant will be a fast-casual type serving breakfast and lunch, and is designed to cater to workers at businesses and government agencies nearby.

It will be located in the former Oaxaca restaurant building at 1516 W. Van Buren St. The menu will consist mainly of Mexican items priced under $10.

Pena said she thinks the restaurant will help people see that challenges in life can be overcome.

“I think it is important that, you know, we can show that even though folks maybe made bad choices or were dealt a bad hand or had a lot of things to overcome, they can still be successful,” Pena said.

Brandon Luciano, a graduate of Phoenix Rescue Mission’s vocational program in August, will be a cook in the restaurant’s kitchen while supervising current program participants. This will be Luciano’s first job after the program.

“I’m really looking forward to … making sure people get fat and happy,” Luciano said.

Luciano said he is looking forward to helping and working with the participants in the restaurant’s kitchen.

Managing the restaurant will be Kyle Jordan, the chef and kitchen supervisor.

Jordan was the director of transportation at a hospital before retiring four years ago. He said his wife encouraged him to spend his retirement doing something he was passionate about.

“So I said, ‘Cooking! Let’s do that,’” Jordan said.

He then went to culinary school, which he is close to completing. Jordan said he thinks the vocational program is a great idea for homeless people to get back into the workforce. Jordan also made clear that the organization is relying heavily on faith to make its mission a success.

“We’re taking all our guidance and direction from God, and he’s the one that’s directing us,” Jordan said.

Contact the reporter at Thomas.Triolo@asu.edu .