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Wildflyer Coffee Shop Employs and Supports Homeless Youth

Emma Jones, contributor

Imagine going to a coffee shop and ordering your regular frappuccino, but with the knowledge that all of what you pay is actively being used to end youth homelessness. I feel as though that thought alone would make the drink taste a lot sweeter! Fortunately, you can do just this right down the block from campus. There is a very special Twin Cities non-profit called Wildflyer Coffee. Its mission is to end youth homelessness. Wildflyer Coffee is doing this by prioritizing employing youth who are struggling with financial and housing instability. In the past two years that Wildflyer Coffee has been up and running, the shop has changed the lives of dozens of young adults. 

Homelessness and housing instability can be major barriers to employment. Lack of transportation, criminal background and mental health challenges can make it increasingly difficult for the homeless to find work. Many employers are less likely to hire someone that is homeless. Often businesses need proof of address, a clean criminal background or are concerned that hiring the homeless would reflect badly on their image. 

Wildflyer’s founders, Carley Kammerer and Ben Griswold, were social workers before opening the coffee shop. They both had the common goal of ending youth homelessness. In Minnesota, over 6,000 youth experience homelessness each year. To combat this issue, Kammerer and Griswold came up with the idea to start a mobile coffee cart in which the proceeds went into efforts to stop youth homelessness. The project evolved into an established coffee shop in downtown Minneapolis. 

Wildflyer has teamed up with Peace Coffee to collaborate on projects centered around aiding homeless youth. Peace Coffee CEO, Lee Wallace, spoke about their partnership, stating “we spent years weaving Peace Coffee into people’s lives at this location, so we are proud to give Wildflyer a built-in community in which to grow and prosper…Wildflyer moves into a space the community already loves and it is an organization that is also in it for good so it’s a perfect match for both companies.” 

One of those exciting projects that Wildflyer and Peace Coffee are collaborating on is creating a permanent home that would shelter youth facing housing instability. Their current goal is to raise $165,000 for the project. They explain that a permanent location would allow the nonprofit to triple its workforce, providing even more opportunities for youth.

When researching this nonprofit, I came across an amazing success story about a woman named Val, who was sleeping on the side of city streets in downtown Minneapolis. Her life changed forever when Wildflyer took her on as a barista through their Sunday Markets. Through her employment at Wildflyer and Butter Bakery Cafe, she has established stable housing. She now has a warm and inviting environment to call home. With both solid employment and a place of her own, Val is looking excitedly towards the future. Wildflyer has even named one of their brews City Lights in honor of Val’s success!

Wildflyer Coffee is located at 3262 Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis.