Front Porch Cafe: Creating Jobs and Space for the Common Good

Church Hill Activities and Tutoring's (CHAT) newest workforce development effort got some great attention this week from WCVE/Community Idea Stations in a piece profiling Front Porch Cafe which opened in Richmond's East End last year with the goal of providing job experience for youth in the community.

Front Porch Cafe was created in partnership with Bon Secours and the Robins Foundation in an effort "to address some of the inequities in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Church Hill. While Richmond’s poverty rate is about 25%, it rises to more than 60% in census tracts surrounding the cafe. In tracts that include public housing communities, unemployment for young adults ages 20-24 can be as high as 57%, compared to 15% citywide."

In the piece, CHAT's Chief Development Office Jonathan Chan (who also happens to be the brother of CGRVA planning team member Tiffanie Chan), points out that youth in areas of such concentrated poverty don't have the same access to business owners who might open doors for them and give them work experience.

"And so those kinds of friends and family networks that for a lot of us who come from middle or upper class backgrounds, helped us get our first part-time or summer job, those don’t exist," Chan says.

He goes on to say (emphasis mine because it's so relevant to our work here at Common Good RVA), "We need places where everybody is welcome, where the flourishing of this business isn’t tied to the flourishing of just one particular demographic in this neighborhood. But to say this is a place that’s open to everybody, so we need to make aesthetic choices, culture choices, value choices as we open up this business that really reflect that [...] We need folks that are willing to take a risk for the common good, willing to take a risk for everybody."

Please take a moment to read (or listen) to the piece is its entirety.  In addition to offering a good example of work being done in Richmond to facilitate flourishing for many, this profile also speaks to points we'll be exploring at our 2018 conference, A Common Good for the Vulnerable, including (but not limited to) poverty and transit.

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Valerie Catrow is the administrator for City Church of Richmond where she has been a member since 2008. She has been part of Common Good RVA since 2014.