Here’s what you can tell about Tony Barnett when you see him working at Community Matters Café. He has a soft, deep voice, and an expression that settles into kindness. As he keeps pace with the pre-work rush, he calmly takes a moment to look each person in the eye, pause, smile, and wish them a good morning.
Here’s what you can’t tell. Tony used to be homeless, sleeping behind abandoned houses in Gastonia. His alcoholism cost him everything he valued — relationships with his wife and children, his job in a textile mill, and a house with flowers in the front yard, and two Chows, Houdini and Lady, barking in the back. He traveled a long way — in spirit if not geography — to stand behind the counter at Community Matters Café, smiling and wishing everyone a good morning.
This café, which opened in Third Ward in April 2019, is one of three campuses of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Every student working at the café has come from the other campuses: Rebound and Dove’s Nest, addiction recovery programs for men and women. Most of these students have lost jobs, homes, and addictions. Now they’re here, gaining skills to prepare for new chapters.
Tony’s in the final stretch of a nine-month journey through addiction recovery. Today, he’ll graduate from the café – clean, prepared, ready to rebuild a life.
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