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Off the streets and into the kitchen

Have program expands to North Shore
HAVE Chef Amber Anderson and Mayor Darrell Mussatto finish off trainee line cook Alex Boon’s plating as Mayor Michael Smith (left), Lookout Society’s Karen O’Shannacery, Ian Tostenson and Mayor Richard Walton (right) look on. PHOTO MIKE WAKEFIELD

Finding a job and making ends meet is hard enough, even when you don't have to struggle with mental or physical disability, poverty, addiction or homelessness.

That's where HAVE Culinary Training Society comes in. After eight weeks of customized kitchen training, students emerge with some serious help to get over those barriers and a foot in the door to a career in the hospitality industry.

The non-profit program recently expanded from the Downtown Eastside to the Lookout Emergency Aid Society's North Shore shelter and graduated its first four students, all of whom are now working in North Shore restaurants.

"They head out and in 86 per cent of the cases in six years, they've got a job," said Ian Tostenson, who cofounded HAVE with fellow North Shore resident Brad Mills.

That impressive stat holds up over time as well, Tostenson notes. Of the more than 600 students who've graduated, about 77 per cent are still working in restaurants, and Tostenson said, and they often become valued as the "best employees" in their business, because they have so much invested in their own success.

It costs about $3,500 to put a student through the eight-week program, which is mostly covered by federal grants, though there is a near instant return on investment,

Tostenson said. "They've gone from social assistance, which is just over $7,000 a year to earning $20,000 a year and actually paying taxes," he said.

Tostenson attributes HAVE's success to the way they greet and interact with their very marginalized students. "The magic is that HAVE is built around total individual respect. When people come in through our doors, the first thing they get is support and respect as a person. In many cases, those are things that those people have not felt for years. They've been basically written off and shunned," he said.

The Lookout Society, which runs the North Shore Shelter, approached HAVE and asked if they'd consider expanding onto the North Shore. Getting into the HAVE program is as simple as walking through door and saying "I want to work here," Tostenson said. From there, applicants are screened, mainly for how serious they are about completing the program.

All three North Shore mayors recently sat down for lunch at the shelter's kitchen to welcome HAVE to North Vancouver.