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Mission Grounds Café Offers Real Coffee Shop Experience, Chance to Help Homeless

Café is new 'social enterprise' by Evansville Rescue Mission which helps fund Men's Residence Center

Cafe Manager Jamie Rudibaugh is making a drink for a customer and the shop is busy. There are a few people waiting for their drinks off to the side and customers sipping coffee at the various inside and outside tables.

“Mission grounds is a full fledged coffee shop run by the Evansville rescue mission,” said Kyle Gorman, executive director of advancement for Evansville rescue mission. “ … it's a new social enterprise that we opened as not only a place for people to come and get a cup of coffee, sit down, relax, do their work, meet with friends, whatever that case may be, but also a place that we can begin training and have on the job experience for our residents that we're currently helping.”

Rudibaugh brings real expertise and her staff of baristas make legit coffee shop drinks including pour-over, espressos and unique tea lattes like turmeric haze.

Gorman said a coffee shop is just a great social enterprise to open, considering a lot of other rescue missions around the country have done it successfully. “You have really high margins for sales,” he said.

“And so that makes it very easy to then set everything up. And then when you have those high margins of sales, all of that money, then can go back into the organization, and help continue those programs that we're offering.”

The Evansville Rescue Mission’s flagship program is the men's Residence Center which Gorman says not only houses homeless men, but helps get them back on their feet by identifying what landed them there in the first place.

“On any given night, there are several 100 homeless people out on the streets, and that is after however many housing that we're offering and the other shelters combined,” Gorman said, adding that frequent causes of homlessness are substances like drugs and alcohol.

“But then the one that's coming up very close behind over the last few years is mental health, mental health is becoming a very serious issue,” he said. “And we've really had to change our game on programming because of that, because you're no longer just dealing with that person that can't put down the bottle or can't put down whatever that vise might be for them. Now you're not dealing with anything other than they can't be on their own because of this mental health issue that they've not gotten taken care of.”

Under the glass at the counter are miniature bundt cakes made by the residents of the Evansville Rescue Mission. They’re baked every day at 3 a.m. and brought over at 6.

Flavors include bacon cheddar bomb, cinnamon crunch, peanut butter cup and double mocha capppicino.

Despite a time of inflation, he doesn’t think such a social enterprise is risky.

“For us, this was a really good investment because we had this space with the thrift store anyway,” he said.

Their thrift store is just beyond the seating of the coffee shop, creating a combined thrift store/coffee shop experience.

“… we had the space to do it. And so it wasn't going to cost any extra money other than the renovation. As for the inflationary, yes, it's happening. But there are still people going out to coffee shops. People still want their daily or two cups of joe and they want a place to come and work that's not at work, and we're happy to offer that place for them.”

Gorman says they’ve received great feedback so far. They’ve run financial projections and even after the ‘newness’ of the shop wears off they should still make a solid profit which is great for their various programs.

Chet Todd of Knight Township visits frequently. At the request of staff member Zoey Hatt, shared a few bad jokes.

“I think this side of town definitely needed something like this,” he said. “And (manager) Jamie's the best. I think it's it's quality. It's great. It's a great atmosphere.”

You can visit the café at Washington Square Mall and follow them on Facebook for daily updates.

A finished Café Cortado waits for a customer at Mission Grounds Café. The shop makes a variety of coffee drinks and teas.
Tim Jagielo
A finished café cortado waits for a customer at Mission Grounds Café. The shop makes a variety of coffee drinks and teas.