(KRQE) Albuquerque - A new coffee shop in downtown Albuquerque is helping put the city's homeless to work.
The Coffee Shop is located at 2nd Street and Lomas and is run by St. Martin's Hospitality Center.
It employs the homeless and helps them transition into full time employment at area businesses , something many of them have had trouble doing on their own.
The Coffee Shop is the brainchild of Father Rusty Smith.
"What we want to do is create a laboratory and they can come in and get a job. They can't be fired," Smith said. "We will give amazing support and help them learn to keep a job and be excellent at a job and it works amazingly."
Those at St. Martin's say it's not for a lack of trying that many homeless people can't find jobs. Without clean clothing, sleep, a shower and work skills, they aren't the best candidate for a job. The Coffee Shop aims to change that.
One of the people currently serving up coffee and sandwiches is 19-year-old Toni Harkness. She found herself pregnant and homeless and with no job experience, she says she got many interviews but no jobs.
"(I wondered) how are we going to do this? What are we going to do, Where are we going to stay? How are we going to eat? There were a whole lot of things going through my mind at the time," Harkness said.
She then found St. Martin's.
Looking at her behind the counter you would have no idea she was homeless.
"Some people have a strange opinion of homeless," says Father Smith. "I think all of us say, oh that would never happen to me. No one chooses that. These people didn't say yesterday, I want to be homeless. We all need to see bad things can happen to us."
The employees at The Coffee Shop work part time and are paid above minimum wage. The goal is to get them in a full time job within four months.
All employees are screened to make sure they are the best candidates and they want to better their lives. Something Father Rusty says they don't have a shortage of.
The remaining proceeds from the coffee sales go straight back to St. Martin's.
Father Rusty Smith says they chose a coffee shop because coffee is something everyone wants.
The location at 2nd and Lomas has also been key to the shop's success. It is in the heart of downtown and draws many business people. While Father Rusty says not everyone knows the mission behind The Coffee Shop, he hopes they take the time to find out and choose it over another coffee shop.
"They can buy a cup of coffee and help someone leave the streets, where else can you do that?" asks Smith.
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