Homeless Hot-Dog Vendors Feed City Jail Workers 

click to enlarge Shelter residents Wyouka Clay and Yvonne Norman are serving up dogs at Freedom Franks, a food cart owned by homeless-services organization Freedom House. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Shelter residents Wyouka Clay and Yvonne Norman are serving up dogs at Freedom Franks, a food cart owned by homeless-services organization Freedom House.

Sometimes you don't need an ambitious program to employ people who are homeless. You just need $5,000 and a bunch of hot dogs.

Freedom House, one of Richmond's main providers of services to the homeless, has opened a hot dog stand to feed construction crews building the new city jail.

"It was this crazy idea I had," says Cindy Barton, director of grants administration for Freedom House. She first thought about it a few years back, when a swarm of hungry construction workers surrounded the Manchester Courthouse. But Freedom House needed money to make it happen, so it shelved the idea.

Then a few weeks ago, Meadwestvaco gave $5,000 to the nonprofit. Freedom Franks was born.

Staffers realized they didn't know the first thing about running a hot dog business, so they consulted a few experts: Tom Winfree of Tom's Meats & Produce, Ed Edge, owner of the RVA Vegan food truck, and a hot-dog cart veteran.

The cart opened Monday, outside the Conrad Center Soup Kitchen at 1400 Oliver Hill Way. It's staffed by two women who are living at Freedom House's shelter. Both have food service experience — they hold part-time jobs for a caterer and a restaurant — and great customer service skills, says Jay Patrick, director of programs for Freedom House. "They just were the perfect fit."

The women, who earn $8.50 an hour to start, use the commercial kitchen in the Conrad Center to make prepared food: chicken and beef barbecue, as well as chicken salad and tuna salad sandwiches. A Berks hot dog with a bag of chips, a drink and a piece of fruit — a hearty lunch for famished construction workers — sells for less than $5, Patrick says. The cart may add breakfast as well.

Freedom House believes in hiring its clients. Already, 90 percent of the staff members at the Conrad Center once were homeless. "In my big dream world, we've got more carts and ways to do job training for folks," Barton says. If the single cart does well, then you might start seeing a whole fleet of Freedom Franks.


Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Newsletter Sign-Up

The Flash
The Bite
The Scoop

Most Popular Stories

  • Hooked


    How two Richmond friends assembled a president, rock stars and acclaimed outdoorsmen to produce a national love letter to fly fishing.
    • Dec 5, 2017
  • Word & Image: Spencer Young, Protester

    Word & Image: Spencer Young, Protester

    Water is Life Rally against fracking and pipeline projects in Virginia
    • Dec 5, 2017
  • Santa’s Cranky Cousin

    Santa’s Cranky Cousin

    Amid some charity and mirth, the punisher of naughty children returns.
    • Nov 28, 2017
  • The 2017 Holiday Almanac

    The 2017 Holiday Almanac

    From old-school Richmond traditions to handmade markets, winter fashion and filmmaker John Waters’ offbeat holiday tips, we’ve got the early holiday feels.
    • Nov 21, 2017
  • More »

Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation