Good Place Akron

Urbean Café:
Hope for Those in Transit

By: Katie Sobiech

Located in Akron’s fairly new Intermodal Transit Station near downtown Akron, Urbean Café brings a glimmer of hope to those in transition. The café, temporarily set up resembling a food stand at a baseball game, is packed with various snacks, treats, and delicious coffee, but this set up is only temporary. A larger café is currently in the works.

This café is the vision of Charles Murphy, Founder of Urban Connection Ministry (UCM).

“The café project came out of the mindset of connecting people with resources to help them escape poverty,” Murphy said.

The café provides job training for those who have never had a job, have a negative job history, or are coming out of rehab and can’t find a place of employment. Many need someone to give them a second or even first chance, and Urbean Café does that.

The Process

Training takes place in a classroom, small-group setting where individuals share their life journeys with each other. Murphy views job training as a vital step in the process of overcoming poverty.

“We do employability training and have 11 quality character traits that we emphasize,” Murphy shared.

After this they get practical work experience at the café.

“They get experience dealing with customers, having a boss, having conflict – all of those things that they need to master before they go to a real job. And they have a safe place to do it,” Murphy said.

Those employed at the Urbean Café work there for 6-9 months and are then helped to find another place of employment. The goal is to give them training and experience so they can move on to something else.

Employee Story

Dereon Johnson, just 19 years old, started working at the Urbean Café over 6 months ago.

“I came up here and talked Charlie down to a 50 cent cookie. It was 75 cents so I tried to negotiate with him,” Johnson said, “but guess what? Sometimes he just gives coffee and cookies to people. He didn’t do it because I talked him down to it, he did it because that’s the type of person he is.”

Growing up in Detroit, Michigan and bouncing back and forth from different foster homes throughout his life, Johnson was ready for a change when he came to Ohio at age 16 with his adopted mom.

“That didn’t work out, so I’ve been to Child Services Board, lived in an autism program in Shaker Heights…I’ve seen a lot of things…” he recalled.

He is now learning how to make it on his own, and thankful for the help of Murphy.

“Charlie took me under his wing as I got situated in Akron,” Johnson said, “He got me linked up in church, reconnected with Christ and I got things from a furniture ministry (C.O.R.E.).”

Murphy takes Johnson with him to everything from business and board meetings, to lunch and dinner with his family.

“This just gives me a broader view, and experiences that I never had before,” Johnson said.

Through all of his pains and struggles, even autism won’t hold back this determined young man.

“Having autism is a gift from God,” he said, “I’ve seen a lot of things growing up but you go through those purposes and situations for a cause and a mission. You can’t let the negativity hold you back.”

Thanks to Murphy and Urbean Café, Johnson is now moving forward to a brighter future, one he might not have imagined before.

The Transit Center

Being located in the Transit Center is a blessing, bringing in lots of traffic.

“The Transit Authority Metro is super. They work really well with us and have been very good to us,” Murphy said, “Four thousand seven hundred people pass through this facility each day, so we see a lot of people.”

The café is open 14 hours a day, bringing in many opportunities to make connections with the people passing by. Murphy views this as an opportunity to minister and serve the community at the same time.

“We practice relationship evangelism,” Murphy explained, “It’s person to person. We’re not passing out Bibles or anything, that’s not really our philosophy of ministry. I think if we all look back on our path to Jesus the tract was never the key. We want to build trust with people, talk about our lives, be real and let our light shine through. It’s pretty simple.”

Collaboration is Key

“One of the things we’re passionate about is collaborating with other ministries. We’re here to be a part of what other people are doing also,” Murphy explained, “If they have people who need our service they should give me a call. I would love to know what everybody else is doing so that I can plug our people into their ministries as well.”

Murphy even has a vision for his coffee cups. With about 3,500 cups passed out each month, he realized the importance of using the blank space on the cup and not letting it go to waste.

“One side of our coffee cup says ‘Urbean Cafe’ but on the other side we have a whole blank coffee cup space and I want to let other people put their messages on it. If they are a pregnancy services organization I would love to put their info. on there. I would love to put other people and ministries messages on there.”

On average, 4,600 people use the Transit Center every day.

“From here people go all over the city. This is their central stop so we see people from all over Summit County, so they pick up that message and go wherever.”

Murphy is also interested in getting their coffee into churches for support.

“We have a custom roast, roasted here in downtown Akron and are really proud of the blend,” he said.

One of his trainees who is close to graduation wants to become the representative of the coffee, delivering it to businesses, churches and anyone else who serves coffee.

“Just that little bit will support what we do,” Murphy said, “and it’s also a visual reminder every time you drink that coffee that we’re out here doing our thing, so we’d love to invite people to serve our coffee in their establishment,” he continued.

For more information on Urbean Café check out or stop by and visit them at the Transit Center!

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