Praise Cafe Providing Job Training for Adults with Mental Illnesses

Café Schwarzenberg, Vienna, Austria

Target: Café 54 Executive Director and Owner Mindy Bernstein

Goal: Applaud efforts to provide on-the-job training for adults with behavioral health issues

For many adults suffering and recovering from a host of mental health problems, finding a place to work can be nearly impossible. That’s why Mindy Bernstein founded Café 54, a nonprofit bistro in downtown Tucson, Arizona, whose lunchtime operation doubles as a vocational training program for adults with behavioral health issues. The program assists over 250 adults dealing with a variety of challenges including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Throughout the program, which may be as short as three months or as long as nine months, employees are paid and build skills in cooking, food preparation, service, and retail. Toward the end of the program, Café 54 job coaches will help trainees find a new job if they want one.

Café 54 has now been in operation for about 10 years, and NationSwell reports that 60 percent of its trainees graduate from the program, half of whom find work afterward in the private market. The organization is funded largely by the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, as well as by its own revenue and private donations. Café 54 has even been able to begin operation of a food truck on the streets of Tucson. The organization’s program manager, Orlando Montes, commented to NationSwell that many employees actually see their symptoms decrease as they persevere with the program. He said, “Jobs are stressful. Jobs are demanding, jobs require us to get up in the morning and show up. And people are resilient, and they need that sense of purpose.”

Applaud Café 54 for providing opportunities to adults with mental health issues to get job training and coaching. Congratulate Bernstein on the organization’s expansion with the addition of a food truck this year, and encourage her to continue expanding her mission.


Dear Mindy Bernstein,

The success of your organization Café 54 is incredible and inspiring. Providing opportunities to adults facing mental and emotional challenges is an important mission to support vulnerable people. By creating opportunities for these adults, Café 54 may help them build structure in their lives and confidence in their own skills. Organizations like Café 54 have the potential to reduce the stigma and marginalization felt by people with mental and emotional problems.

Thank you for making possible Café 54’s success and growth over the last 10 years. Thank you for working to create opportunities for adults with mental and behavioral issues to empower themselves in an increasingly impossible job market. Congratulations on your recent addition of a food truck to your organization, and I urge you to continue expanding your mission.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Andreas Poeschek via Wikimedia Commons

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