More than 7,500 young people across Minnesota, many of them in the Twin Cities area, experience homelessness on any given night. A lack of stable employment is often the top barrier they face in getting and keeping permanent housing. Yet, research shows that people experiencing homelessness can and do succeed at work—if they’re given the opportunity to learn how.
The Work and Life Skills Training Program was created in 2020 by Wildflyer Coffee to address the growing challenges of youth homelessness and housing instability in Minneapolis and surrounding areas. This unique employment and life skills training program aims at helping teens and young adults find and maintain mainstream employment. Founded in 2017, Wildflyer Coffee is a nonprofit social enterprise.
Individuals ages 16–24 facing housing instability or homelessness participate in Wildflyer Coffee’s four-month paid program, which provides on-the-job training in either its brick-and-mortar coffee shop or its e-commerce and wholesale supplier stores. That training is paired with a professional work and life skills development curriculum that teaches crucial, transferrable soft skills such as customer service, professional communication, handling emotions in challenging settings, and teamwork. Participants also earn continuing education credit for courses such as Customer Service, Financial Literacy and Housing 101.
Toward the end of the program, they receive next-step career and educational counseling to help them identify their interests and guide them to the future of their choosing.
“Rather than providing temporary, short-term solutions that address symptoms rather than root causes, the Work and Life Skills Training Program creates a straightforward journey out of homelessness,” said Carley Kammerer, Founder and Executive Director of Wildflyer Coffee.
“Through our collaboration with our workforce, community development case management service and other partners, we’re demonstrating that we can provide social and financial benefits to youth experiencing homelessness—as well as to our larger community. We look forward to expanding Wildflyer Coffee with the opening of a second location in Minneapolis early in 2023, and to sharing our program with nonprofit leaders across the country.”