It’s about great food but more importantly, it’s also about transforming lives. A program in Seattle called FareStart is empowering homeless people and addicts to leave their demons behind and learn how to live on their own.
Mike is a 41-year-old who’s been an alcoholic since the age of 13.
“I got out of jail and my girlfriend had died while I was in jail, so I had nowhere to go,” he says. “I was basically trying to drink myself to death.”
Earlier this year, his corrections officer told him he should check out FareStart, a culinary and life skills training program in the heart of downtown Seattle.
“I tried to explain to him that I’m living under a tree and I don’t have an alarm clock,” he says. “I don’t think it will be possible because I’m going into treatment.”
But he did end up joining the 16-week program, and from the day he put on his chef’s uniform, the staff and chef volunteers at FareStart taught him every aspect of the restaurant business while helping with his recovery.
FareStart began 20 years ago and every year, more than 250 down and out men and women come in with the same goal: to stop their downward spiral.
“We like to say food is at the core of our community, it’s the hook that engages our students to come in the door,” says Molly Hancock, the Vice President of Programs at FareStart. “But the real transformation takes place is in the life skills and job preparation training.”
Hancock says FareStart provides housing and drug, alcohol, and mental health counseling for the students. The graduation rate is 60-percent.
“But for those who graduate or those who make it through the 16-week program, 82 percent of them will be placed in jobs within the first 30 days.”
Mike is one of the graduates who just landed a job. He’s working at the Melting Pot, the first time he’s had a job in more than 11 years. Thanks to FareStart, he says he’s learned that he matters and he doesn’t need alcohol to feel human.
“If you’re in a situation in life where everything seems hopeless and down, this place will lift you up. It’s incredibly positive, and has given me confidence and hope,” he says.
The FareStart restaurant is at 7th and Virginia and the money raised from the daily lunches and Thursday night Guest Chef dinners goes to fund the training program. FareStart also has catering services and provides more than five million meals a year to local homeless shelters.