“I had been working since I was 15. I’d never been in a position where I had to ask for things,” says Kenneth, who lost his forklift operating job when his company relocated. He was forced to move back home with his mother until Inspiration Kitchens helped him gain the culinary skills he needed to secure a full time job as a cook. He and his mother were able to move out of their housing project and into a newer building. Kenneth says that his mother took care of him while he was unemployed, and now he is proud to be taking care of her.
The Cafe provides restaurant-style meals to homeless or poor men, women and families in a therapeutic community that promotes dignity and respect. All meals are cooked and served by volunteers. Inspiration Cafe is open only to participants in Inspiration Corporation's programs, all of whom are working on stability by increasing income and/or becoming permanently and stably housed.
In addition to offering meals, Inspiration Cafe operates a food pantry that is open to Inspiration Corporation participants.
Inspiration Cafe was founded in 1989 by Lisa Nigro, a Chicago police officer who began searching for a personal response to the homelessness she encountered in Uptown. She began by loading up a red wagon with sandwiches and coffee to distribute to homeless individuals on the streets. Today, the Cafe is still the heart and soul of the thriving organization, which has grown up around it.