Freedom A La Cart Expands Into New Downtown Café
It’s been a decade since Freedom a la Cart started helping women escape prostitution and human trafficking with counseling, education and a steady paycheck.
On Monday, the nonprofit’s services expand considerably as they open their first storefront, the Freedom a la Cart Café.
“This is our pastry area," says CEO Paula Haines, giving a tour of the freshly renovated space on East Spring Street. "We’ll be expanding this, adding lots more pastries and experimenting with pastries as we develop and grow."
Café offering include a rosemary breakfast sandwich, bacon quiche, and a roasted chicken sandwich with French onion and garlic aioli. The café also plans to sell an array of grab-and-go salads, as well as hot and cold drinks.
The organization started as a food truck in 2011, and has since expanded into catering and box lunches. About seven years ago, they started thinking about a café.
“Catering has been great, but just being able to open your doors to the public not only gives employees the extended work skills of interacting directly with customers, but also gives us the opportunity to educate and share our work and what’s happening in the community involving sex trafficking,” Haines says.
Haines says since opening in 2011, Freedom a la Cart has employed about 110 women who wanted to start over. That includes Rose Daniels, who came to Freedom in 2019 after being in and out of jail.
Daniels was referred to the organization by Franklin County’s CATCH Court, a specialized docket for women charged with solicitation, prostitution, and other crimes where the defendant has been the victim of human trafficking.
“It’s more than just a job because, yeah, I wanted to get out and be self-sufficient and make my own money, but I needed support," she says. "Support is key. Support is important, and they offer case management. They offer counseling, and just personal support."
The new café sits inside a 7,500-square-foot building that houses two kitchens, a rentable event space, and a Freedom Resource Center where women can apply for jobs, take online classes, and meet with counselors.
Haines says “society has failed" these women, after being asked if her organization exists because court systems have failed to support them.
“We’ve continued to let women be prostituted and be sold for sex," Haines says. "And I think we can educate and let people understand that women aren’t selling themselves for sex because they want to. There’s usually force, fraud and coercion behind that. We’re just trying to change the mindset of the population in general."