STOCKTON, Calif. — Bold plans are coming together in Stockton as a shelter and restaurant giant team up to help homeless people off the streets and into new jobs.

The Gospel Center Rescue Mission is laying the foundation for a new trade school program that’ll train homeless men and women for the fast food industry. It’s a group effort between the shelter and McDonald’s, specifically the Golden State Restaurant Group.

Wayne Richardson, CEO of the shelter, says it’s a “win-win” scenario. With fast food industries typically experiencing high turnover, the program gives a new opportunity for homeless people to land a stable job. In return, the restaurant group stands to get in return a better prepared applicant for its McDonald's restaurants.

“Our people can actually train on the french fryers and the grills that McDonald’s uses, so when they get to McDonald’s… they know what they’re doing,” Richardson said.

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How it works

The program has multiple parts, one focused on getting the food handler’s license and the others focusing on customer service and equipment training. Within six months, every student in the program should receive their food handlers license. For Richardson, that means students, who previously didn’t know how to cook, learn more about how to properly store and prepare food.

“Some mothers [in the shelter]... never had a mom to teach them to cook and do different things,” Richardson said.

Getting a license will give the students a big advantage when applying to restaurants like McDonald's, Richardson added. In the next phase, the trade school rolls out actual McDonald’s training modules. Students get trained in customer service, how to use headsets and specific equipment, and cashier roles.

“[Golden State Restaurant Group is] going to help us design the kitchen," Richardson said. "They’re going to give us some of the materials... or help us find the like-equipment to purchase.”

The end result is a kitchen filled with fryers and grills, similar to what's used at McDonald's, which will give students more familiarity with the tools they'd be working with.

For the final phase, graduates from the trade school become student instructors for the next class, generating leadership skills. The program has big ambitions, hoping to have up to 300 students in the next five years.

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To help facilitate this, the Gospel Center Rescue Mission has received a $400,000 grant from San Joaquin County to renovate the kitchen in the spring. With the trade school being an additional component of the shelter’s New Life Program, Richardson hopes to get the first part of the project going before the end of the year to coincide with the incoming of an additional 118 beds.

Those new beds add up to 218 shelter beds for the women’s portion of the New Life Program. Richardson says that will make it one of the largest faith-based, long-term regeneration homeless and drug addicted programs for women and women with children in North America.”

“Domestic violence and trafficking will be a key aspect of the expansion and getting these women job skills,” Richardson said.

Tori Verber Salazar, San Joaquin County District Attorney, has been huge supporter of the New Life Program and the pending trade school. 

“When you look at this, you truly are turning the course of history with an individual’s life,” Verber Salazar said.

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She added a lot of survivors of trafficking or domestic abuse need a program like this that makes them better emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and can also help them obtain an "incredible employee skill set." 

“That’s what your goal is, to get people mentally and physically well but also... financially well in order to contribute to the community,” Verber Salazar said.

Richardson doesn’t intend to have the trade school be an exclusive part of the New Life Program. He’s hoping to open it up to the community down the line, which means even someone living with their parents could apply. With Golden State Restaurant Group having restaurants in San Joaquin, Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Amador counties, the trip to apply won't be too far for students.

The fast food trade is only the beginning for the Gospel Center Rescue Mission's plans. Richardson says the new school could be the first of 10 trade schools they build within the next 10 years.

Current plans have phase one for the project starting up around spring and phase two finishing up in the next year.

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