Mental health charity Jami is planning to open further branches of its ground-breaking Head Room café in Golders Green in other major centres of Jewish population.
Launched in 2016 on the premises of Jami’s former charity shop in Golders Green Road, Head Room was part of a mission to change the conversation about mental health within the community.
The food and drink operation, headed by ex-Ottolenghi chef Or Golan, now provides all-day dining under Federation of Synagogues supervision and it has just received a drinks licence. The shop element has been retained, albeit on a much smaller scale, and there is private space for seminars and one-to-one discussions. A Jami staff member is usually on hand, although most customers would be unaware of this.
Before its transformation into Head Room, the charity shop turned an annual profit of £10,000. Jami chief executive Laurie Rackind said that in the first year of operation, “it’s several times more.
“It’s always difficult with a pilot — you make projections but to a certain extent it’s finger in the air stuff. Commercially we’re ahead of target, which is great.
“The aim was to make mental health cooler and more accessible. I think that through the café we’ve been able to do that. We don’t necessarily push the Jami brand within the café but it’s clear to most people that it’s a Jami initiative.”
Mr Rackind went on: “The boutique side of it needs some work and we’re currently recruiting a head of social enterprise to help us open up further sites.
“The idea is to bring together all the commercial aspects — the cafés, the warehouse, donated goods — and maximising income, awareness of mental health in general and providing vocational opportunities for service users.”
Although he was coy about the sites in mind for the new branches, he said they were in “prime locations. Most of the Jewish population is in six postcodes. We will go where the footfall is.”
Jami operates on a budget of £2 million-plus and Mr Rackind stressed: “We always make sure we cut our cloth accordingly because we are 100 per cent voluntary funded, so any development of service has to be sustainable.”
For example, when it came to development costs for further cafés, the charity would endeavour to secure funding from a trust or individual donor, with the Golders Green premises used as a selling point.
This weekend will see the community’s mental health Shabbat marked with sermons, speakers and discussions in synagogues throughout the country — and linked events before and after.
Mr Rackind is encouraged that UK Jewry is talking openly about mental health.
“It now has to know how to respond to any kind of mental health situation, as they would to a cut finger or a heart attack.”