Like a lot of coffee joints, Out of This World Café features coffee, tea, and baked goods. It has regulars who nod knowingly at the baristas, sometimes even calling them by name. In fact, it probably has more regulars than most cafés, since the clientele of the shop, located on the Queen Street CAMH grounds, is largely CAMH professionals and clients—and most of its 25 staff are patients.
As part of CAMH’s $293 million development, the long-running café (which opened in 1997) moved three weeks ago from inside an institutional building to a storefront. Earlier this week, patrons were relaxing on the patio, gazing out on the facility’s 27-acre site, with newly constructed buildings framing winding streets lined with trees and parkettes.
What makes the café exceptional is its seamless integration. As a meeting place for patients, CAMH staff, and the neighbourhood, it provides a model for what the larger institution is trying to do.
“We want to bring the community into the hospital and the hospital out into the community,” says CAMH’s Rania Shuggi. The plan was to eliminate the social stigma attached to the place once known as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (when it was built in 1850). She points to the local residents taking morning jogs through the new development’s curving paths, or even taking wedding photos—a far cry from the forbidding concrete edifice she knew when she started working there 15 years ago.
Looking more like a university campus than a hospital has helped business, too. Café manager Warren Hawke, who describes the business as a ‘vocational rehab program,’ said, “Previously we were deep in the hospital, and you’re unlikely to walk into any hospital for lunch. Now it’s just another café on the street.”