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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

Angela Jaspan serves up a fresh cup of coffee at the Colours Café, located on the second floor of St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton’s West 5th campus.

Busting the mental health stigma in Hamilton

Colours Café officially open at St. Joes West 5th campus

  By Mark Newman, News Staff 

Angela Jaspan is quick with a smile, not to mention service.

The 32-year-old downtown resident is one of nine employees at the Colours Café that officially opened to the public earlier this month. 

Located on the second floor of St. Josephs Healthcare Hamilton’s West 5th campus, the café is staffed mostly by people who have battled addiction or mental illness.

“I do love coming to work,” said Jaspan, who noted she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder 13 years ago and that her condition is well managed through medication.

The café offers a variety of menu items including breakfast along with salads, soups and sandwiches.

Everything is prepared fresh each day, either in the café or in a hospital kitchen on the first floor.

Jaspan said she was working in the cafeteria at the old west Mountain mental health hospital when she heard about the café being planned for the new hospital and enquired about a job.

She was hired as a café supervisor and about a month ago was promoted to assistant manager.

Jaspan says she’s usually on site before 8 a.m. each day to unlock the door and put the coffee on.

 “It’s a team effort,” she said. “Everybody care about the clients and the patients.”

There are two separate service counters at the café.

One is for hospital staff and the public and the other is for hospital in-patients who do not have access to the public area.

The café is operated by the Rainbow’s End Community Development Corporation, which has been employing people with mental health issues in the Hamilton area since 1997.

David Williams, executive director of Rainbow’s End, said patrons to Colours Café should find the business no different from any other café in the city with similar fare and pricing.

“We’ve selected some employees with suitable skill and background in food handling and food (preparation) and customer service and given them an opportunity to work,” Williams said.

He noted the café should also help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Every time somebody comes in here and is served by a consumer of mental health services, they will understand that maybe this individual really can do just as good a job at doing this as anybody else can and that is the truth,” Williams said.

He noted they received about 200 applications for café jobs and only one staffer has left since the business unofficially opened last March.

A $68,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation grant over two years is paying the salary of the café manager.

All the other staff is paid minimum wage or more in the case of supervisors.

Williams said the café has been well received by hospital staff and while they are currently breaking even, he’s hopeful the business will become entirely self-sustaining over the next 18 months.

The café is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends

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