Coffee With a Cause: Pasadena Coffee Shop Hires Homeless and Foster Youth

The past year has seen a 64 percent increase in 18 to 24-year-olds sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles and many of those youth come from the foster care system. One minister in Pasadena is doing his part to give homeless youth a new lease on life.

Charlene Long, 26, is now thriving in her new job as a barista at Pasadena's newest café - Rose Bud Coffee on East Colorado Boulevard. But getting here wasn't easy.

Long grew up in foster care and eventually ended up homeless in Compton - desperate and afraid.

"It's not a good feeling," she said. "Once you feel alone, you feel like there's no one out there rooting for you. No one you can turn to or count on."

She was able to get off the street and find a home and a job in Pasadena, with the help of Pastor Dan Davidson.

Davidson founded Rose Bud Coffee as a way to help homeless youth.

When he first came to Rose City Church in 2009, he began feeding and clothing a group of street kids who camped outside his church. But the more he helped them, the bigger the encampment grew and it quickly became unmanageable.

"Once the neighbors were involved, calling the police department to say 'OK what is going on at this church?' is when we realized, or I realized, it was overwhelming," he said.

Davidson had to disband the homeless camp and find a new way to help.

"That left a huge impact on my mind, my heart ... there's these young people that need the local village, the local community to really support and take care of them."

He found an old coffee cart on the church property and began training homeless youth to get jobs in LA's growing gourmet coffee industry.

Long is among the trainees who are learning job and life skills and she now knows, she's not alone.

"The training of coffee and being a barista is really a vehicle to something much deeper, much greater," Davidson said. "What we discovered, the youth were learning for the first time in our program to give back."

Long says Davidson has given her a new lease on life.

"I just want to say thank you because I never thought in a million years I'd be here," she said.

Long says she now dreams of going to college and becoming a veterinarian.

"This situation is going to either make or break me. It broke me, but I didn't let it keep me broke ... I found the pieces and I managed to put myself back together."

Rose Bud Coffee works with Wild Goose Coffee Roasters in Redlands. For each pound of coffee Rose Bud orders, Wild Goose donates ten pounds of food to a local food bank.

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