CafeSmart on how everyone can take action against homelessness


For the seventh year running, CafeSmart will attend MICE as the event’s official charity partner with the aim to connect with more participants and raise much needed funds and visibility for local grassroots homeless charities.

CafeSmart, a StreetSmart initiative, began in 2011 and has evolved into a week-long event that invites café owners, customers, roasters, and traders to “do good and take action against homelessness”.

This year, the event ran from 1 to 7 August in the lead up to Homelessness Week, with participating cafés donating $1 for every coffee sold on Friday 4 August, and staff wearing yellow clothing during the week to help raise awareness of CafeSmart.

“The event started with just 20 to 30 participants,” says StreetSmart Partnerships Manager Cynthia Mac Caddon. “Today, we have more that 650 cafés, and more than 40 roasters on board.”

Coffee roasters and cafés who sign up to the program each year see a portion of their sales go towards fighting homelessness in their local area. Generous coffee lovers can join the initiative by making a direct online contribution.

“Funds raised are fed back into projects as close to where they are raised as possible and target smaller services who work to support people experiencing homelessness. We know local leaders, volunteers and community groups are best placed to identify what support their communities need, and have solutions and mechanisms in place that work for them and their community,” Cynthia says.

“Some [projects] target food relief, some are targeting mental health issues, and some are focusing on accommodation and housing support.”

CafeSmart is one of Streetsmart’s broadest initiatives because it supports grassroots services in every state and territory, with last year’s event raising a total of $159,000 that was distributed across 130 frontline organisations.

Cynthia says the impact CafeSmart’s donations deliver every year wouldn’t be possible without thousands of micro philanthropists, including small business owners and coffee lovers who have been stepping up and doing a charitable act for the past 12 years.

“If you think about it, being a philanthropist means to give back, whether that’s to give back time, give back skills, or give back money,” says Cynthia. “Everyone can be a philanthropist by being engaged with the community and having a positive impact.”

“It’s my favourite time of the year when we distribute the grants and we hear back from the community partners,” Cynthia says. “With the donations comes beautiful stories.”

She adds that the “power of the cup” cannot be understated during the campaign, with even the smallest donations contributing to local areas in a big way.

“[A donation] may be one dollar, but when you look back at the end of the campaign, that’s one of over one thousand dollars raised,” Cynthia says.

Putting together the campaign each year is a big effort, but Cynthia says much of the work begins after the weeklong event has concluded.

“The unique aspect of CafeSmart is that once the campaign finishes, we pull all of the funds raised and map them per region to ensure the funding needs of local homeless services are met,” says Cynthia.

The 2023 edition of the CafeSmart campaign has officially passed, but Cynthia says donations are still welcome.

“We want industry brands and coffee lovers to know that there is still time to support the campaign and join the thousands of philanthropists that are contributing to having a positive social impact across the country,” she says.

This year marks the 13th year of CafeSmart. The event has been running for over a decade, however Cynthia says it needs the industry’s support more than ever, with more than 122,494 people estimated to be experiencing homelessness, according to Streetsmart. Fifty-eight per cent of those affected are under the age of 35.

“Homelessness is a really complex issue,” says Cynthia. “There are many contributing factors to be tackled, but we know from worldwide evidence that it is preventable and solvable. We know that your support will go a long way.”

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This article appears in the MICE Showguide 2023. View the Showguide HERE.

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