When people walk into Purple Door Coffee, they think it’s like any other comfortable cafe, with an atmosphere purposefully created, but behind the counter amazing things are happening.
The cafe opened in April with a mission “to reclaim and sustain the lives of homeless and street-connected youth, through supportive and meaningful employment.”
Those people working at Purple Door experience support and a mentoring program that allows them to adjust to the workplace while learning valuable skills that will help them in their lives. These include customer service, food service, conflict management, handling money and getting along with other people.
Mark Smesrud, Purple Door’s director, said the cafe’s mission has not been broadcast in order to provide a comfortable workplace for both employees and patrons.
But Purple Door is opening doorways to youth from all over Denver. It offers jobs to homeless people between the ages of 18 and 25. Each person who works for Purple Door is employed for a period of six to 12 months, with most job training taking place as situations arise. In addition, there is a general curriculum devised to teach general life and job skills.
The youth who work at Purple Door are referred there by Dry Bones Denver, an organization that’s been working with homeless youth for more than 11 years, helping people with nutritional advice and job seeking skills.
Purple Door, located in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver, is run by Smesrud and Madison Chandler, who both serve as directors of the nonprofit. They also act as mentors to young people, as well as being busy managers of a coffee shop.
The cafe model was chosen because of the atmosphere it can provide, and Smesrud and Chandler hope that the future will see more businesses similar to Purple Door opening, each aimed at helping youth who are ready to get off the street and start a new beginning.
Purple Door received funding from nonprofits, individuals and churches from all over the U.S., but now that they are open for business, they hope to finance themselves through sales.