It’s coffee with a karma catch: order your cappuccino at Downtown Streets Team’s (DST) KARTMA Street Café and know you’re paying it forward, because every cup purchased goes towards ending homelessness. The 100 percent electric coffee cart employs individuals transitioning out of homelessness and equips them with practical work experience and a competitive wage. March 22 marked the launch of its new location on the plaza of the Sunnyvale Public Library.

To commemorate the grand opening, City Manager Deanna J. Santana welcomed the crowd while Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson enthusiastically cut the ribbon. Also in attendance were Sunnyvale council members Larry Klein and Russ Melton, as well as Thea Smith Nilsson from Microsoft, who presented five donated Surface devices for KARTMA point of sale technology. DST Staff and Team Members filled the crowd to celebrate this milestone for the nonprofit.

“A simple suggestion by City employees to offer coffee service at City Hall transformed into helping some of our most vulnerable community members gain valuable job skills,” said Deanna J. Santana, City Manager. “That’s not only great karma, it’s an inspiring example of Sunnyvale’s approach to service – collaborating with our community to find creative solutions that meet multiple needs.”

Bailey DeCarlo, who was formerly homeless and now proudly works as Cart Lead for the KARTMA Sunnyvale location, spoke about how she joined the team because she dreams to one day open her own café. She expressed that working at KARTMA is helping her reach long-term goals.

KARTMA is also on a green mission to up-cycle former street vendor vehicles. Several recently secured donated carts will be retrofitted for future KARTMA locations in other Bay Area cities. DST’s vision for its first social enterprise is to have a unique, localized KARTMA Street Café in each community to extend more job opportunities and amplify its impact.

“DST’s mission to offer hope and a pathway to recover from homelessness is at the center of everything KARTMA does,” said Maegan Lillis, Manager of Strategic Initiatives at DST. “We’re offering the community a way to be a part of this with their daily cup of coffee.”

Thousands of daily Library patrons and nearby city employees will now have a new source of refreshments from a business they can be proud of in their community, and one that’s helping them address the needs of their neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.

The cart originally piloted in the City of San Jose in 2014, and since then seven Team Members have used the platform to gain barista and customer service skills. They encouraged DST to partner with the City of Sunnyvale to bring the cart to another community where Team Members have had success. City employees learned about KARTMA as they were exploring the idea of a coffee service to expand amenities at City Hall. Sunnyvale and DST already work closely together to support housing services in the community, making the partnership a natural fit and a great collaboration.

The cart will serve coffee and other non-caffeinated beverages on the Sunnyvale Public Library plaza, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

All photos are courtesy of The Family Album Project. View the full gallery.

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