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Colorado Coffee Shop Employing Homeless People Is 'Opening Up The Eyes' Of Its Community

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Seth and Kelly Kelley didn't want to argue with their neighbors, they wanted to prove them wrong. That's why they opened RedTail Coffee -- a shop where being homeless is actually a resume-booster on your application for hire.

The idea for the Fort Collins, Colorado, business blossomed after the couple learned in a neighborhood meeting that many in their community were hesitant to support a nearby project to build affordable housing for homeless and low-income people, the Coloradoan reported. The couple decided to open their shop this past spring near the housing complex, Redtail Ponds Development, after the meeting exposed many of their neighbors' negative and stereotypical views about the people who are going to live there.

Although Seth and Kelly have only hired one homeless employee thus far, they're already seeing perspectives shift.

"It’s been a very positive experience thus far," Seth told ThinkProgress. "It’s definitely opening up the eyes of people who live in the area."


It takes a "tremendous amount of work just to get out of homelessness," Seth told ThinkProgress, adding that his one homeless employee needs to wake up very early to eat breakfast, wait in line to shower at the shelter and catch a bus across town.

Through partnerships with area nonprofits working with the community's homeless population, Redtail Coffee is hoping to exclusively hire residents from the housing complex once it opens next year. The coffee shop's website points out that, "when [customers] buy a coffee or muffin from RedTail coffee, [they're] helping to provide job training, business skills, and a career to the homeless in our community."


It seems as though Seth and Kelly aren't the only ones in Colorado focused on helping the homeless. Since 2012, the Centennial State experienced the largest decline -- 56 percent -- in homelessness in families compared to all other states, according to the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

To Kelly, combating the crisis starts with showing that everybody's human.

"People don't know who's behind the counter when they stop here," she told the Coloradoan. "It could be any one of us in that low-income or homeless category. We want to make a positive experience for people."

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