A Dallas restaurant known for giving kids second chances, hiring interns out of the juvenile justice system, is expanding to provide at-risk teens with even more resources.
Café Momentum is working on renovating a space that also needs a second chance deep in the forgotten tunnels of Downtown Dallas.
“I guess I believe nothing is throwaway or trash,” said Café Momentum’s founder and chef Chad Houser.
Houser first began Café Momentum back in 2011. During that time, his staff has served 624 teens. While the state’s recidivism rate is 48%, only 15% of Café Momentum’s past interns have gone back into the system.
In addition to culinary training, Houser and his staff provide lessons on life and job skills.
“We’re filling their needs and we’re doing it in a consistent, stable and positive environment,” said Houser.
But until now, they’ve only been able to do it during business hours anywhere from six to eight hours a day.
That’s why Houser knew he wanted to expand to double the number of hours his staff could spend with the teens each day. And surrounded by expensive downtown real estate, Houser looked to a space it seemed no one else wanted… one most have completely forgotten about.
“I was like, ‘There’s space down there.’ To me it was a no brainer,” said Houser.
Just steps from his restaurant and in the tunnel below Thanks-Giving Square, Houser found two adjoining store fronts that once housed a credit union and restaurant.
He says the city was hesitant to lease it. After all, there’s no foot traffic. But that trait that made the space seemingly trash, was exactly what Houser was looking for.
Inside he’ll be able to include a living space, offices for staff, a classroom to home school interns and even a wellness center. There will be a “store” to provide snacks and personal grooming items. But most importantly, it gives the teens a chance to be surrounded by good influences for most of their waking hours.
“You know building something like this meets them where they’re at with their needs, helps to empower them to take charge of their own lives and the decisions in their lives, and thus creates a much greater impact,” said Houser.
So far, Houser says nearly all of the building supplies for the project have been donated. While there are still a few things they need to secure, he’s confident they can be up and running come fall.