CafeSmart’s mission to encourage conversation about homelessness


Now in its 14th year, CafeSmart is collaborating with cafés and roasters to encourage conversation about homelessness and respond to the needs of those experiencing it.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there are more than 122,000 people experiencing homelessness in Australia. Not-for-profit organisation StreetSmart is on a mission to reduce this number via its annual CafeSmart campaign.

“The current cost of living and housing crises mean many new faces are seeking support from homelessness services,” says StreetSmart Australia Impact Coordinator Isabella Stanley.

“It’s hard not to have homelessness front of mind when you can see there’s a great increase of people sleeping on the street in your local neighbourhood.”

CafeSmart is an annual coffee-led campaign that unites roasters, cafés, and coffee enthusiasts around the country to fight homelessness and support those at risk in their local area.

This year, CafeSmart is focused on supporting those who are sleeping rough. Donations will help respond to the immediate needs of people and families who are experiencing homelessness, providing support like food relief, medical care, essential clothing and material aid, and housing assistance.

“When people think of homelessness, rough sleeping comes to mind. We know this isn’t the only form of homelessness, but instances of rough sleeping have increased over the past few years. We are seeing a rising number of people forced to sleep on the street, in their cars, or in unsafe accommodation. People who are employed are sleeping in tents or couch surfing because they’ve been pushed out of the housing market,” Isabella says.

“Our community partners tell us there’s a 30 per cent increase in people seeking basic essentials, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Our focus on rough sleeping is a response to emerging trends and current needs. We want to be able to respond quickly through our community-activated event.”

Last year’s CafeSmart campaign saw 717 cafés and 44 roasters join forces to raise $147,585 for 133 local grassroots charities and community partners.

“Thanks to CafeSmart, countless cups of coffee have been enjoyed for a good cause. Year after year, the event continues to showcase the incredible community-driven efforts of the Australian coffee industry and offers everyone an easy way to give back through our shared love of coffee,” Isabella says.

“The great thing about CafeSmart is that it leverages the social nature of coffee to drive collective action, and channels support in a localised way. Homelessness can be quite a heavy topic to discuss, and CafeSmart helps to create tangible change and engage the community in a positive way.”

In 2024, CafeSmart will run from 10 to 16 August during Australian Homelessness Week, uniting hundreds of roasters, green bean suppliers, cafés, and coffee lovers around the country. Cafés will donate $1 for every coffee sold on Friday 16 August, and are encouraged to get their customers involved via QR codes and posters.

“We always hope for a bigger and broader impact each year, so we’re eager to continue to recruit partners across the coffee supply chain and engage more people in all areas of Australia,” says Isabella.

“It’s always so heart-warming to see how excited café owners and baristas get to dress in yellow for the week, decorate their venues, and promote the initiative to their customers. It’s a reminder that what the whole coffee industry is doing isn’t just paying lip service, it’s about standing together and taking action.”

All donations raised through this year’s event will help fund CafeSmart’s community partners across Australia. This includes drop-in centres with showers, laundry facilities, and food pantries; neighbourhood centres providing meals and basic essentials like clothing; and women’s refuges which provide safe accommodation to women and children fleeing domestic and family violence.

Grant recipients will also include outreach programs that give medical care and support to those sleeping rough, and housing programs that provide safe accommodation.

“CafeSmart is such a powerful social impact campaign, which so many different aspects of the community can take part in. We’re excited to expand our network and make a difference for people experiencing homelessness in Australia – one coffee at a time,” says Isabella.

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This article appears in the June 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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