CafeSmart – Fight homelessness by drinking coffee

Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo

This article first appeared on Benojo on August 6, 2015. Image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.

‘Drink coffee and do good’. It’s a simple – but highly effective – idea. For one day a year, StreetSmart Australia asks coffee drinkers to support cafes taking part in CafeSmart.

For each coffee sold $1 goes towards helping those experiencing homelessness. In 2014, some 415 cafes took part nationally and raised $120,000 for 91 community projects.

This year, CafeSmart takes place on Friday August 7.

StreetSmart Australia founder and CEO Adam Robinson tells us learn more.

Keeping it local

Aware that homelessness was a growing problem in Australia and frustrated by the lack of national leadership towards such a crucial issue, Robinson left his corporate career behind in 2000 for one in the not-for-profit sector. Opting to work with smaller charitable organisations, he found their efforts were highly valuable, but were often under-resourced and under-funded. With the view to gain much needed support for these grassroots community charities, Robinson launched StreetSmart Australia in 2003, modelling it on StreetSmart UK.

The independent not-for-profit practices a philosophy that favours locality, by channelling donations to partner charities as close (as possible) to where they were raised. 100% of donations go directly to their partner charities with StreetSmart Australia’s operating costs being covered by philanthropists, supporters and sponsors.

To date, StreetSmart Australia have raised and distributed over $3.43 million, which has supported 409 organisations to implement 1011 projects.

Engaging an industry

The hospitality industry is an integral part of StreetSmart Australia’s work – as are the customers of the cafes and restaurants that take part in CafeSmart and its sister event DineSmart. Running since 2003, DineSmart is held across six weeks, in the lead up to Christmas and New Year, with participating restaurants asking their diners to add a $2 donation to their bill.

“I think it works because people care,” says Robinson of the success of both CafeSmart and DineSmart. “Neither of these campaigns could work without participants, so it’s down to the small business owners and their staff who want to do something for others.  We have been very lucky to have had the industry leaders and the community support we need to make these campaigns a success.”

The Front of House All Stars is another event that StreetSmart run with the support of the hospitality industry. Launched in 2009, the annual dinner showcases the skills of front of house staff from some of the country’s best restaurants. Ticket sales and donated auction sales on the night also help contribute to funds raised, which at last year’s event was a record $36,500.

The feel good factor of giving

“It’s hard to pick out a single event,” says Robinson on what has been his proudest moment since launching StreetSmart Australia, “but what makes me proud is when we distribute the funds raised to the projects.  It’s so good to be able to help out and have an impact on so many people’s lives and to do this through [partnering with the dedicated staff at these smaller organisations].  Getting funding is so tough for them, you have to fight for every dollar, yet they know the need for their services is real and increasing. “

He adds: “I’m pleased that we’re able to help, but know we need to do more, and at the same time advocate for major change in our community.  We really shouldn’t have the homelessness we have in Australia.  As a community we all need to stand up and demand change.”