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Homeless shelter is about to open a restaurant here's the inspiring reason why
The Light House Shelter is opening a restaurant to help train and mentor shelter residents. - photo by Billy Hallowell
A homeless shelter in Maryland is preparing to launch a community bistro and coffee shop that will do much more than simply feed hungry patrons; it will also offer training and job opportunities to at-risk populations.

It's a creative concept that the Light House Shelter in Annapolis, Maryland, is heralding as an example of a "social enterprise" a business that will create revenue and then pour proceeds right back into combatting homelessness.

Plus it's an effort that will offer jobs for countless homeless and at-risk people in the local community.

The Light House Shelter already runs the Building Employment Success Training program, an effort that offers housing and work programs for its clients.

According to a description of the BEST program, it offers "job skills training and paid internships in the areas of culinary arts, facilities maintenance and landscaping and data entry."

Participants work with mentors, coaches and others to try to reach personal and professional success, according to the description.

It was after the Light House Shelter moved locations, though, that leaders struggled to sell the old facility and came up with an idea: the organization could build upon its training programs to offer something unique inside its old building.

The goal? Renovate the former facility and turn it into a restaurant called the Light House Bistro; four permanent housing units will also be installed on the top floor.

Once it launches, the restaurant, which is now under construction, will offer jobs to people in the BEST program as well as those who already graduated from that program, the Good News Network reported.

A December 2015 story in the Capital Gazette reported that the restaurant, which uses the tagline, "Changing Lives One Meal at a Time," would provide 20 jobs when it opens its doors before the end of 2016.

The $2.3 million project has received a grant, donations and free services from design and engineering firms, among other local construction-related businesses.

In the end, it will be a 50-seat restaurant complete with a coffee hub and takeout bar. The basement will also have training space allocated for the BEST program. The goal, again, is to transform lives while creating a funding stream that can help to fuel the shelter's programs.

"I'm so happy all these people are willing to get involved," Light House executive director Elizabeth Kinney told the Capital Gazette. "Any revenue stream from the restaurant, coffee bar and take-out will be poured back into the Light House Shelter and its training programs."

Attention to the restaurant project has also shed some light on the training programs that Light House is already offering, particularly in the area of culinary arts.

Linda Vogler, a culinary instructor, is among the chefs who have been teaching homeless people the skills needed to learn the restaurant craft skills that could one day bring them employment opportunities.

Vogler, who overcame her own battle with alcoholism, told the outlet in an interview that it's her passion to work with the poor and homeless, as she believes instilling important skills can help change lives.

"The point is, if they don't have the skills, they have to go back to the only way they know how to survive," she said. "I've worked with people who have been incarcerated. My main thing is that you want to cook. I can deal with everything else."

According the Light House Shelter's website, the organization also offers a variety of other "core programs," including transitional housing for families, emergency shelters, food programs and financial literacy education, among others.
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