Coffee with a Cause: Unusual Cafe Hiring Homeless Youth Opens in Pasadena

Rosebud Coffee and its parent Rose City Coffee trains and hires homeless and transitional-aged youth as baristas

Published : Monday, October 9, 2017 | 10:12 AM

Rosebud Coffee. Image via Facebook

Today, a coffee shop that improves the lives of down-and-out Pasadena residents while serving top-notch craft coffee, teas, pastries and sandwiches will open its doors to the public.

Rosebud Coffee at 2302 E. Colorado Blvd. is the only cafe in the city that exclusively hires formerly homeless people and transitional-aged youth to work in its shop as its baristas,”  said Dan Davidson, founder of Rosebud Coffee and lead pastor at Rose City Church.

This first-of-its-kind cafe also sources its coffee beans and food items from local businesses and nonprofits that regularly give back to the community.

“Your cup of coffee is providing the opportunity to change the life of a formerly homeless or transitional-aged youth,” said Davidson.

“I would say your coffee has a cause,” he said.

The idea for Rosebud Coffee arose six years ago when Davidson and his wife, Samantha, reopened a shuttered, historic church building on Del Mar Boulevard and Allen Avenue in Pasadena.

The church, rented out for four years, had attracted homeless youth who were living in the parking lot. Davidson began providing food, clothing and shelter. Soon, the church grounds turned into a mini tent city — to the dismay of neighbors. The young pastor and his wife, also an ordained minister, realized they needed help. So they contacted nonprofits such as Pacific Clinics, Journey House, LA Youth Network and Youth Moving On for wrap-around services such as counseling, shelters and permanent housing.

When Dan Davidson noticed the previous pastor had purchased a mobile coffee cart for use at nearby Pasadena City College, he and a friend of his, Brett Prior, had a unique idea: Use the coffee cart to help the homeless gain a skill. Rose City Church repurposed its coffee cart as a training ground for homeless youth to learn the art of creating specialty coffee beverages. The rigorous program qualified graduates for jobs in the burgeoning LA coffee scene.

Rose City Coffee, a nonprofit, has trained 15 homeless or transitional-aged youth. And the brick-and-mortar store on Colorado Boulevard, just west of Sierra Madre Avenue, is the next rung in a philanthropic enterprise that addresses the growing homeless problem in Los Angeles County with a combination of compassion and practicality.

“The youth that come through our program gain confidence, but even deeper, a sense of self-worth,” Davidson said. “It’s because they know they have something to offer and it is offered within relationships from people who love them deeply.”

One of those who graduated was Norma Lathan, 24, who bounced from foster home to foster home her whole life, ending up on the street.

With a recommendation from Youth Moving On, which had supplied her with a place to live and spending money, Lathan began training at Rose City Coffee in February. Upon completion in June, she landed a job at a Starbucks cafe.

“It (training) was so that I can have something to put on my resume. But then I got a job. I am a barista at Starbucks. I’ve worked there ever since I graduated (from the program),” said Lathan, who is studying biology at Citrus College. She hopes to work in the medical field.

Rosebud Coffee is a large space that will be open to community groups such as book clubs and service organizations for meetings.

“We want it to be a space for the community to gather. One of our key values is the development of community and supporting community,” Davidson said. “So bring a friend.”

Rosebud Coffee buys its coffee beans from Wild Goose Coffee Roasters, which donates 10 pounds of food to a local food bank for every pound of coffee purchased. Pasadena-based Hope Catering, which continues to hire homeless and those recently released from incarceration, provides sandwiches, salads and pastries.

The cafe was designed by Matt Lunn of Gensler, the L.A.-based architectural firm and his wife, Kerry Bogus of Commune Design. Both donated their time and services. Rosebud Coffee is sharing the space with Chirp, a kids karaoke and birthday party business.

Rosebud Coffee hours are: M-Fri, 7 a.m.-5 p.m; Sat: 7 a.m.-11 a.m. Sunday: Closed.

Ample parking is available in a spacious lot behind the store off Roosevelt Avenue, as well as street parking on Colorado Boulevard.

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