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Taj Mahal restaurant turning into school for at-risk youth


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#1 G-Man

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 07:51 AM

I am not sure if this hit the papers today but on the radio this morning they were saying that there is a proposal for a Restaurant Training Centre for Street Youth at the former Taj Mahal Restaurant on Herald Street. Apparently the residents across the street are upset by this. I mean it seems like a good thing and if someone is in a training program it is probably pretty unlikely they are going mug you or shoot up on the street.

They would seem to be NIMBYs at their worst.

It is programs like this that generally make the biggest difference. There will be eight beds for those that are accepted in the program and do not have somewhere to live.

There was a program in Vancouver that worked with street youth in creating Arts and Crafts and it has actually been quite successful in getting people off the street.

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#2 Caramia

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 07:53 AM

That sounds awesome, the kind of holistic solution we have been crying for. When I was a kid there was "Cooks Down Under" which moved a lot of my friends off the street and into functional society. I can't imagine why anyone would complain about something like that.
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#3 gumgum

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 08:14 AM

Sounds very Jamie Oliver.

#4 G-Man

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 08:17 AM

^ Perhaps that is the way the people should be marketing it. Perhaps they could get a big name canadian chef to lend their name to it.

Rob Feenie's Taj Mahal Culinary Training for Street Youth ;)

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#5 Galvanized

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 08:17 AM

^Yes! Though I guess the people across the street think it will be a Ramsay kitchen nightmare!
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#6 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 25 April 2007 - 08:50 AM

It's in today's paper -- sounds like a great idea (and the neighbours seem more concerned about being in the loop, vs. being against it -- also, they want to make sure the d/t creeps don't infiltrate the kids' new space):
[url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/business/story.html?id=8b4d220f-6c10-4b14-a0f6-61b3133fa1cd:00d3f]Youth training a 'win-win situation'[/url:00d3f]:

Youth training a 'win-win situation'
Proposal will help keep kids off the street and launch careers

Darron Kloster
Times Colonist

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pat Griffin of the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society speaks during the announcement in the former Taj Mahal restaurant.
CREDIT: Ray Smith, Times Colonist
Pat Griffin of the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society speaks during the announcement in the former Taj Mahal restaurant.

A proposal to turn a vacant downtown restaurant and rooming house into a hospitality training facility and housing for at-risk youth is drawing praise from the foodservices and hotel industry caught in a severe employment squeeze.

Social agencies and police are also throwing support behind the plan for the former Taj Mahal restaurant on Herald Street, saying it addresses the need to get kids off the streets and started on a career.

Victoria city councillor Helen Hughes called the Youth Hospitality Training Centre a "win-win situation" for the tourism industry -- the backbone of Victoria's economy -- and in addressing downtown's growing homeless and street kid population.

But Hughes and other officials also had to allay concerns from neighbours who attended yesterday's hastily called press conference saying they weren't properly consulted on the plan and want assurances of security around the property at 679-681 Herald St.

The proposal would see the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society -- an umbrella agency that provides programs for youth in the city -- operate the facility for up to three years provided funding can be secured.

Pat Griffin, VYES executive director, said the former restaurant space would provide "ideal space" for youth pursuing classroom and hands-on training programs in the restaurant and food services industry. The 11-room bed-and-breakfast facility, each equipped with kitchens and bathrooms, would be used for temporary housing, staff and counselling offices and a "mock hotel room" for those interested in hotel training.

Griffin said the annual projected cost of operating the facility would be $775,000. About 60 to 80 youth and young adults between the ages of 13 to 22 could be accommodated in the first year, with a projected 80-per-cent completion rate, he added.

Only about $300,000 has been committed so far -- half from local industry and businesses and the rest from the federal government. Griffin said requests for more grant money are out to businesses and the provincial government, but there has been no response from the province.

He said funding has to be in place within a few weeks for the project to go.

Mayor Alan Lowe said it is difficult to secure provincial funding "because it doesn't fit their model ... it's too innovative."

Lowe added it is difficult to see Victoria businesses importing overseas workers "when we have people in our own backyard we can help."

Three Point Properties, the Victoria developer who owns the Taj Mahal, is allowing VYES the use of the property for up to three years. Ross Tennant, managing partner, said Three Point has no immediate plans to redevelop the site and is offering rent "below fair market value."

Tennant said the rent would cover the property's "carrying costs," adding the advantage for the company would eventually come with the rising value of land downtown. Three Point has made no secret of the fact it wants to wait to see massive new developments such as the Bay Building and Radius get underway before committing to a new project or selling the property.

The hospitality industry called the training facility a small step in addressing a massive labour shortage.

Steve Walker-Duncan, chairman of the Victoria branch of the Canadian Chefs Association and a local cafe and catering owner, said the lack of employees for the food and hotel sectors will get much worse in the coming years. He said recent statistics show that while 60,000 high school students on south Vancouver Island will graduate this year, only 20,000 were enrolled in kindergarten classes, which means a smaller labour pool.

Making matters worse is industry poaching where high-paying employers in other fields lure restaurant and hotel workers away.

Walker-Duncan added that Victoria has 1,007 restaurants and food services outlets -- highest per capita in Canada -- and that does not include kitchens in hospitals, care homes and other public facilities.

For a city with such a strong tourism base, training is essential.

Dale Dyck, manager of the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort and chairman of the Victoria Hotel Association , said he's an example of simple beginnings, starting out as a bellboy. "Hourly jobs can be stepping-off points to careers," he said.

Victoria police officer Laura Eastwood, who works with the department's Outreach Team for Youth, said if the facility helps only a handful of kids, "it's worth it."

Hillarie Denny, who lives across the street, joined about a dozen neighbours yesterday at the Taj Mahal trying to get more information about the plans and how the centre will be operated. "I'm not against this in principle,' she said. "We want information ... we want security concerns addressed. We know what goes on at night (downtown).

"When it's youth at risk, you're supposed to (be) away from where the risk is."

Hughes assured her there will be a strict no-loitering order. There is also a courtyard within the property for youth enrolled in the program to gather, she said, adding VYES has been operating downtown for years with very few problems.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


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#7 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 30 April 2007 - 10:33 AM

Op-ed piece in today's T-C about the proposal to turn the Taj Mahal restaurant and bed and breakfast into a training centre for at-risk youth. The plan seems like a no-brainer (as the article suggests); let's hope the politicians from the provincial level step up to the plate:

[url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/comment/story.html?id=2172178a-d291-4b19-9748-6bbb10cec7e4:7fa7c]Youth training plan deserves support[/url:7fa7c]

Times Colonist

Monday, April 30, 2007

The plan to turn the former Taj Mahal restaurant and bed and breakfast into a training centre for at-risk youth makes obvious sense. The provincial government should step up with the last remaining piece of needed funding.

The Youth Hospitality Training Centre proposal offers all the needed components to help young people facing lives that could go wrong -- practical training in a real workplace to help them get their start in the hotel and restaurant industries, housing to provide a needed stable base for a job search and support.

It's a rare opportunity. The Youth Empowerment Society has been offered a lease on the property for up to three years at favourable rates. The hospitality industry, which hopes the program will help ease staff shortages, and other businesses have donated $150,000 and the federal government has matched that amount. Police and social agencies support the project.

But the total annual cost would be about $775,000, or about $10,000 each for the 75 young people expected to go through the program. While fundraising continues, the project needs provincial government support to go ahead.

Winning provincial support has been difficult; the project apparently doesn't fit its existing programs.

That is not a new issue. But it's a serious problem, one that works against innovation and new, small-scale pilot projects in too many areas.

Projects like this one, which, for a small cost, has the potential to turn lives around before they spin out of control and cost the public much more. If the pilot works, the model could be applied across B.C.

Our politicians -- municipal and provincial -- talk a great deal about the problems of youth, homelessness and addiction. But the evidence on our streets is that they are failing to deal with the challenges.

This project is a useful test of their real commitment.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


Parallel to this, there's also an interesting letter in today's paper on the difference between a "hand up" vs a "handout," and that governments of the day seem more interested in giving quick handouts instead of coming up with programs that provide for a hand up. (The youth training facility in the Taj Mahal is an example of a hand up, not a handout.)

[url=http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/letters/story.html?id=7bb22df6-1443-44fd-8175-3b5bc98f5a0d:7fa7c]Better a hand up than a handout[/url:7fa7c]

Times Colonist

Monday, April 30, 2007

The motivation to help others is complex. Some have argued that charity is degrading. It sends a message that we are better than someone else.

I don't wish to open this debate, but there is a difference between a handout and a hand up. As a society, it is clearly better to provide a hand up, to help people get into a position where they are contributing members of a society.

Bill was a volunteer at the Youth Emergency Shelter in Edmonton. Earlier he had been homeless, in jail, on drugs, and had cost the society a good deal of money. Now he works about 20 hours a week as a volunteer.

After his shift he eats a good meal before leaving. He has been regular, reliable and sobre. If asked what he did, he said he worked at the Youth Shelter. Bill is no longer an outcast; he now has, at least, a tenuous grip on the edge of mainstream society.

At Our Place in Victoria, some of the regulars have become "workers." They have moved from being dependent to playing a modest but meaningful role. Should we simply help people to exist, or should we provide them with the means to build a stake in the community?

Governments can change handouts to programs that help people get ahead. They can deliver programs in a way that degrades people, or they can help people maintain their self-esteem.

During the 19th century, most European countries treated the old and disabled as charity cases. Some existed in homes for the poor. In 1889, Prince Otto von Bismarck of Germany argued that those who could no longer work had a well-grounded claim to care from the state. Government action transformed charity into a social program.

By 1906, the developed nations, with the exception of the United States, had universal pension plans. In the U.S. in the 1930s Social Security replaced a hodge-podge of private plans with a universal and efficiently run old-age insurance program.

Similarly, systematic social programs by nations have turned charitable deeds into the rights of citizens in a civilized society.

My education, my health care, my extensive use of libraries, and now my Canada Pension payments were not charitable gifts. Instead, they were a civilized society's intelligent investment in my potential. Such investments help the vast majority of us make useful contributions to society and feel that we belong.

I am bothered by a governmental mentality, both at the federal and provincial level, that prefers a handout to a hand up; that is dominated by a market mentality. Let the profit motive dictate all decisions. Health care should pay for itself. Housing is a commercial matter.

The decision to cut support for day care fits this mentality. Most of the developed world knows that investing in families with young children is not a handout; it makes young families and their children better and more productive citizens. Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks a handout of $100 a month will somehow create adequate day-care programs.

Harper and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who could make a difference to those living on the edge, are content to let charity, food kitchens and emergency shelters keep marginal people alive, as long as they not be too visible.

Jim Hackler is an adjunct professor in sociology at University of Victoria.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007


(I don't agree with his argument that the handout is part of the market mentality -- sort of seems the reverse to me. But basically he's right that handouts are stupid, and giving a hand up -- which then allows people to participate productively in, among other things, the market -- is better.)
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#8 Rob Randall

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 04:52 PM

Colliers has this one listed for sale.

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#9 G-Man

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 08:12 PM

Nope I believe that would be the Kabuki Kab site and not the taj mahal site.

There was just a fundraiser for the planned kitchen and that project is on track.

#10 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 25 March 2008 - 08:17 PM

Nope I believe that would be the Kabuki Kab site and not the taj mahal site.

There was just a fundraiser for the planned kitchen and that project is on track.


I believe you are correct.

#11 Caramia

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 10:16 AM

Renovations are underway on the kitchen. I went on a tour of the space the week before last, and it looks awesome. I'm very excited about this because when I was about 17 and hanging out on the streets a similar program engulfed my social group... and a few months later I'd gone from being surrounded by friends who were unemployed, panhandling and receiving various forms of welfare to being surrounded by friends who were employed and had some self respect. Because it took in about 16 kids at a time for a few months each, over a couple of years it impacted our entire little tribe, which meant that even kids who weren't involved in the program benefited. What is it they say? "Raise the level of the pond to lift all the boats?" Something like that. Considering that was almost 20 years ago when the economy sucked and there were no jobs, the Youth Hospitality Training Centre will have a huge advantage in today's job market.

Also, the way they are doing it this time really shows that while this project is innovative, it has also benefited from the experiences of the past. Some of the things I think will really help make this work are the presence of an industrial kitchen to train the kids in, the integration and involvement of the labour hungry hospitality industry, the option of housing those kids who are in unstable situations, and the presence of the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society staff, who have a lot of experience in working with youth at risk, and also, who know something of these kids and their stories.

Another aspect I like is the flexibility of the program. If a kid is able to spend a short amount of time in the program, pick up "serving it right", "food safe", etc, and then after their first internship they get hired, then they can graduate from the program and make room for another kid. If a kid needs more training, or needs the stability of coming back to the program in a regular way, that can be accommodated too. The article said 10K per youth for a year, but really should have said 10K per seat for a year, which will typically host more than one person. If a kid requires additional life skills work that is also available through VYES, and easy to tailor. A huge improvement over the cookie cutter programs available in the past.

The rooms upstairs are nice, funky, but humble too, basically little bachelors. There will be a staff member awake and present 24/7 in the housing area. The kids have a one guest limit in the rooms, and no overnight stays, although they have a common room where they are welcome to hang out with friends. The housing component is huge because one of the big barriers for young people in finding housing is having no rental history, or references, not to mention no experience taking care of a space that is solely "theirs." This way they get a bit of time in a safe home of their own, with adults around who can help them learn to become good tenants. And I would imagine remembering my own younger days that when they are able to move on they will do so quite voluntarily, as the rules are quite strict.

#12 G-Man

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Posted 26 March 2008 - 10:25 AM

Definitely one of the best programs I have ever seen too. Just what the city and its pop need.

#13 Rob Randall

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 11:53 PM

Nope I believe that would be the Kabuki Kab site and not the taj mahal site.

There was just a fundraiser for the planned kitchen and that project is on track.


Sorry, my mistake.

There is an opportunity to create something very interesting here between the Chung Wah Mansions and the new proposal for the old Brake lot on the corner.

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#14 Audrey

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Posted 06 April 2008 - 07:59 PM

What a profoundly cool idea. I'd really like to see that thrive. :cool:

#15 Caramia

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Posted 05 May 2008 - 09:43 AM

This opened May 1st

#16 Audrey

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 11:46 AM

Hey Caramia, any news on how it's doing after a month?

#17 Caramia

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 12:35 PM

The youth have started moving in upstairs, and they are pretty excited, and life skills is going full bore. The youth love it, not surprisingly. Hell I'm a little bit jealous, it is a wonderful space. The hospitality training won't start turning out grads until renovations and fund raising completes. We are so close to our goal it is painful. Hopefully this benefit gets us a bit closer.

#18 G-Man

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 01:03 PM

Is there a website where we can get more info on donating to this?

#19 Caramia

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 01:34 PM

As soon as the event is over I will be helping the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society update their website, which is woefully out of date, but the contact information on there is correct.
Any offers of donation can be sent to

YES Office
533 Yates St.
Victoria BC
V8W 1K7
Telephone: (250) 383-3514
Fax: (250) 383-3812
Email: office_manager@vyes.ca
or spc@vyes.ca

Just say somewhere on the email or cheque "for the Youth Hospitality Training Centre" They can also take credit card info at that phone number.

It is a registered non-profit, so make sure to request a tax receipt.

You can also contact me through private message on this site, and I'll make it go. (don't send me any credit card info though!)

Every dollar that comes in at this point is a big deal.

Thanks G-Man!

#20 VicHockeyFan

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 06:35 PM

Today:



 



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