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Tackling Homelessness in the Suburbs

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So-called ‘tent city’ on the doorstep of the Reserve Bank in Sydney and Flinders Street in Melbourne has generated a lot of media, and heavy-handed responses from public institutions. But sadly, homelessness in metro Australia is just the tip of a much greater problem.

A recent report by the Council for Homeless Persons found that 37% of rough sleepers are in the middle and outer suburbs, whereas only 8% of people sleeping rough gravitate to inner metro areas.

“Rough sleeping in the CBD and central areas has a lot of visibility and media coverage, but there are a lot of rough sleepers in the outer suburbs,” says Jay Church from Anchor Housing, an organisation servicing Melbourne’s Yarra Ranges, and our StreetFunder supported project this October.

The Yarra Ranges includes the very outer urban fringe and semi-rural areas. The region ranks highly housing stress, which is estimated to sit at 30.3%. It also ranks in the top 10 areas for socio-economic disadvantaged communities nationally.

“The Yarra Ranges includes pockets of deep poverty and a highly vulnerable demographic,” Church said. “Coupled with the cost of private rental, the capacity to meet that cost is simply out of reach for lots of people.”

Suburban homelessness is increasing in lockstep with rising housing prices, stagnant wages and, below poverty level income support payments. In areas with few job opportunities, and poor amenities, services like Anchor Housing are a lifeline for people doing it tough.

The Rough Sleeper Initiative engaged rough sleepers in Melbourne, Port Phillip, Stonnington and Yarra Ranges. They found the majority of people were on some form of income support, and in labour force. “This picture supports a conclusion that labour market conditions and low-income support payments are drivers of increasing levels of homelessness and rough sleeping,” the report said.

Anchor Housing provided 1,839 bed nights in 2016/17 and about 46% of those helped were already homeless when they presented. The other 54% are part of a growing demographic of the ‘almost homeless’ – people in deep financial stress and at risk of losing their home.

Deep cuts to the federal social services budget over successive years has stripped away the ability of many services to assist people in crisis who need assistance with bills, rent, medicines, food and other basic needs.

We have been funding homelessness organisations for fifteen years, and the sad reality is that it is getting worse, not better. More and more people require help to meet very basic living costs, and often small amounts of funding are all that stands between someone having a home and them ending up homeless. Meanwhile, services are having their funding cut, or left in a constant state of limbo.

StreetSmart has supported Anchor with $15,900 in community grants since 2006 and will be supporting Anchor again this October to try and redress the black hole funding cuts have left in their material aid budget. That means a food voucher for a young family in crisis accommodation or financial assistance to keep up with the cost of private rental.

We support people who are experiencing homelessness to get back on track, including people are rough sleeping. We also do a lot of work with people at risk. Preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place is a key.”

If you want to support Anchor Housing to maintain vital material aid, you can donate to our October StreetFunder here.

 

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SeedFunding Youth Homelessness Services to Break the Cycle

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On any given night 26,238 Australians aged 12-24 are homeless. These young people are more likely to leave school, experience long term unemployment, and are more likely to experience persistent homelessness in adulthood.

The main risk factors that lead to homelessness among young people include: family violence, child abuse, parents with alcohol or drug issues, and mental illness. That is to say – young people who experience homelessness have the odds stacked against them from the outset.

For those subsisting on Youth Allowance, the average rental will cost a young person 63% of their income. To put that in context, a person is generally considered to be in housing stress if they pay 30% of their income or more on housing. Entering the private rental market with no rental history, no employment history, and insufficient income support make the odds of getting out of the homelessness trap seem insurmountable. That makes getting educated, and getting into secure employment a high priority.

The Barwon South West Homelessness Network are in the business of making a dent in these struggles – with supported housing, and assistance from case managers. What they lack, is adequate funding to support young people to get back to school, or find secure employment. When the statistics tell us this is one of the greatest barriers young homeless people face, we think more can be done.

“Across the network we constantly face the issue of not being able to provide support for things like getting some new clothes, a haircut, or a taxi voucher to get to an interview. There are funding streams available – but they are not able to meet that critical response. Going through the other funding streams cannot get this done.” -Andrew Edger, Barwon South West Homelessness Network Coordinator.

Andrew is also a key resource person for StreetSmart, sitting on our Victorian Grants Committee providing expert advice on the needs of frontline services. StreetSmart CEO, Adam Robinson and Andrew have been brainstorming ways to practically assist young people to move beyond homelessness. What is missing is being able to respond quickly to what young people need. It could be preparing for an interview across town in 3 days time, or new uniforms for an apprenticeship.

“With a patchwork landscape of funding, and the specialised needs in the homelessness sector – StreetSmart is here to step in and fill the funding gaps. In collaboration with the The Barwon South West Homelessness Network, we are seed-funding a coalition of specialist youth homeless services to set up the “Now I am Ready” fund, enabling services to meet the cost of work and education support. That could be a TAFE course, a new uniform, or a semester of prescribed textbooks. Ideas like this need community backing so that young people are supported at the right time and in the right way.”  – StreetSmart CEO, Adam Robinson.

With many homeless young people lacking family support or a social safety net, it is up to us – the community – to support them when they need it most. And Andrew has a whole of community firmly in mind.

“We want to develop a whole of community response. Getting local business involved – whether it’s free haircuts, discounts on textbooks, or supporting us through matching what the public are giving to get this idea off off the ground.”

We think instead of missing out on important life opportunities, Australia’s young people deserve a leg-up.  We 110% support innovative solutions taking action against homelessness, and with the help of our StreetFunders, we have set ourselves a $10k target for the “Now I am Ready” fund, to help over 50 young people.

If you want help seed fund this new project and give young people the support they need you can.  Individuals can donate here, and businesses can donate and help us match funds raised from the public by getting in touch with our CEO Adam Robinson.

 

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Street Socceroos Ready to Kick Goals at the Homeless World Cup

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When so much attention on homelessness surrounds the eviction of rough sleepers from major cities, or the doom and gloom of housing (un)affordability – it’s good to shine a light on some positive actions that are changing lives.

At StreetSmart, we proudly support new ways to tackle homelessness and have provided seed funding for ideas like Orange Sky Laundry, Fare Share and HoMie which have all gone on to make meaningful community impact. Another program that has grown in leaps and bounds is the Big Issues Street Soccer program.

For people experiencing homelessness, sport can deal with one of the biggest hurdles – social isolation. By connecting with peers, people have the opportunity to develop something many of us take for granted – social support systems. That’s not to mention the health benefits, which are a key focus of the program.

George Halkias founded the program in 2005, with a little kick start from a StreetSmart grant. It is now a nation wide, weekly program, and the team has participated in 7 Homeless World Cup’s and hosted the Melbourne 2008 games. The team are now in training for this years tournament in Oslo. 

“It’s more than a sports program – it’s about being a community that is supportive of their health and wellbeing. Health outcomes are really important to the program and sport is a great starting point.”

George and the coaching team do more than teach the game – they provide mentoring and create a culture of inclusion. Their aim is to create a place that players can feel safe to tackle the opposition, and some of their more complex issues, like mental health or substance abuse. This way, they aim to support the players to re-connect with services and get on the path out of long term homelessness.

StreetSmart is supporting Street Soccer again this month – with our StreetFunders donating coin to support players returning from the Olso Homeless World cup in September.

“Supporting players to transition back, post World Cup life, is really important. The cup has a big build up, lots of energy and excitement. But generally we find players experience a drop when they come back, like anyone does. So we are looking to strengthen the transition back – whether that’s job support, training, or whatever is needed to keep the positive momentum.

After the cup, we focus on new goals, and keep building on skills and confidence that has come from travelling the world and representing the country.”

We are hoping to raise $7,000 to fund the Street Soccer transition program – and you can chip in too here. If you are not certain how impactful a simple game of soccer can be, don’t take it from me, take it from the players:

Sometimes people don’t understand when I try to explain how important soccer is to me, but it has dead-set helped me change my life.” – Street Soccer player.

           One Month = One Project Funded

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What is Causing the Homelessness Crisis?

By | CafeSmart, News, Uncategorised | No Comments

A protest message at Sydney’s Martin Place Homeless Camp.

The causes of homelessness are many and varied. Domestic violence, a shortage of affordable housing, sudden or long term unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to individual experiences of homelessness.

At the population level the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tells us that there are two main reasons people experience homelessness. Simply not being able to afford housing and domestic violence.

Successive governments have sold off (and continue to sell off) public housing stock – and have been slow to replace with a coherent system for affordable housing. There is no National Housing Strategy, and the national framework for funding the states remains in a near constant state of limbo.

Instead we have a market solution geared to support investors that puts upward pressure on prices, and pushes low income earners to the fringeswith few jobs, and little public amenity. What public housing remains, comes with a depressingly long waiting list – and much of the stock is poorly utilised.  There is a welcome growth in community owned social housing, but it will take a long time to recover what has been lost.

Put simply: outrageous prices and few choices at the lower end of the market are the leading cause of homelessness.

Add to the mix negative wages growth, and an increasingly insecure job market – the demographic of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness is larger and more diverse than we have witnessed in decades. As Stephen McDermott, CEO of CafeSmart supported service – Saint Patrick’s Community Support Centre recently told Broadsheet:

“There’s certainly more people accessing our services, that’s for sure. But it’s coming from people that mightn’t have accessed our services in the past. These are people who’ve got part-time jobs. In the past we would have been servicing those predominantly outside of the work system.”

We are hearing the same story from the majority of the services we support – demand is up and the people in need of assistance are no longer the “poorest of the poor”. Yet these same services are also witnessing a decrease in public funding. Saint Patrick’s Community Support Centre has just scrapped its weekend meals service due to lack of funding.

For women, contending with affordability is compounded by domestic violence.

According to Institute of Health and Welfare 38% of all people requesting assistance from specialist homelessness agencies were experiencing domestic violence, and in need of emergency accommodation. Almost half of those people presented with children.

Domestic violence services are among those under threat by the uncertainty surrounding the federal-state agreement for funding. State by state responses vary considerably, but NSW, Victoria and WA are witnessing the largest growth in women seeking homeless services due to domestic violence.

When we spoke to another StreetSmart supported project, Youth Futures, about their housing program for young mothers, they told us they have no public funding and have to turn many women away. The rough price of housing every young mother that presents in need of support is about $150,000. That is to keep children out of state care, families together, and young women safe. A drop in the ocean, for immeasurable social good.  

So what needs to happen?

Housing and homelessness is complex. It affects lots of people, and the reasons it impacts people are not always the same. People have different needs, and face different barriers to getting out of the homelessness trap. The needs of a woman escaping domestic violence are very different to a single man who has experienced a sudden injury and job loss, or a young indigenous person in remote Australia.

That means it requires a comprehensive response – and a diversity of local services that can provide specialised assistance to the community.

StreetSmart supports small grassroots organisations, and most of these report that they have lost public funding. De-funding community level services that provide a vital safety net is a step in the wrong direction.

Federal and State governments need to take leadership on the issue – starting with the recognition that market based responses have comprehensively failed. We need a National Housing Strategy – and a clear funding framework to revitalise the social safety net.

Most of all – we need to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place. As our CEO Adam Robinson has said:

“When more than 1 in every 200 people are homeless every night in Australia we know there is a problem. When services working on the front-lines are telling us that this figure is likely to be much higher, and we don’t have coherent public response – that is a huge cause for concern.”

Heading into National Homelessness Week – we have our most significant campaign of the year – CafeSmart which will raise funds for grassroots homelessness services helping the diversity of people in need.

We believe that Housing is a Human Right, and no one should be without a safe and secure place to call home.  You can support the CafeSmart campaign this Friday August 4th by finding a participating cafe, or donating the cost of a coffee online.

 

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CafeSmart #LocalHeroes with On the Go Espresso

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Dave Humphreys is On the Go Espresso – a zippy little caffeine station that clocks up to 150 kilometres in a day serving up customers all over the Sunshine Coast. On the Go Espresso is also one of CafeSmart’s quiet achievers.

Since 2015 Dave’s collection box has more than doubled the totals from the $1 per coffee sold on the day. I gave Dave a call to talk about the secret to his CafeSmart success. It turns out the secret ingredient: passion for cause. 

“When I first participated in CafeSmart I learned a lot about homelessness. It’s old people, it’s young people, it’s mum’s and dad’s –  it really can impact anyone. It was a big eye opener for me.  

You meet everyone in this business, and a lot of those people are doing it tough. Through CafeSmart I learned that some of my customers have been homeless, and know how hard it is out there. 

Last year one of my customers gave $50 because he’d had a personal experience of homelessness, was back on his feet, and wanted to give back. I was blown away.”  

 

Dave makes use of the bright yellow CafeSmart smile to start engaging people as soon as he gets his pack in the post.

“I cover my van with the posters and postcards in the CafeSmart event pack. It’s bright, it’s in your face and engages discussion – people want to know what it is all about.  

I talk about it on social media, and I even pass out laminated postcards and asked some of my regular customers to take some pictures and get on social media too. 

A lot of people care about this issue and want to contribute. It’s all about just starting the conversation – and once you open that dialogue, not only are people putting their hand in their pocket, they are sharing their own personal stories.”

And CafeSmart does bring home the personal because it’s about locals helping their hood, and supporting services in their locality. That makes a big difference to Dave and his customers.

“It is great to know that the money raised is for local services, like Sunny Kids, which is a great organisation doing great keeping a roof over kids’ heads. People are interested helping their area. It has even motivated me to reach out to other local services, and offer them my support.”

We will be bringing you more #LocalHero stories in the coming weeks – from cafes big and small.

You can #HelpYourHood this #CafeSmart campaign by signing up your café, or looking for your local this August 4.

 

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One Single Cup of Coffee Can Change Lives

By | CafeSmart, News | No Comments

CafeSmart is a campaign built on the energy and commitment of the coffee industry around Australia.  Campos Coffee have been a CafeSmart Roasting Partner for six years, and have taken out our Coffee Roaster Award for the last three.

With this year’s campaign rounding the bend, I caught up with Campos Director Rafael Bartowski about what CaféSmart means for their business.

“Social good is a collective responsibility. Every business must play a part in making a better community. If everyone worked on that same principle, we would live in a very different world today.”

Campos support a number of impact initiatives in all of their growing countries – and Raf explains that when local impact is your goal, the rest comes together.

“Participating in CaféSmart makes complete sense to us. We see this as an investment in our community – we need to make sure that we are a force for positive social change.”

Campos flagship cafes are also on the CaféSmart mission– and the efforts and funds raised by their cafés has been directed into initiatives in their local neighbourhoods.

Their Melbourne café has supported some great programs, including the HoMie, the Social Studio and St Marys House of Welcome. In NSW, their Newtown café has helped to fund the local neighbourhood house and The Big Issue.

“The traceability and the localised impact is such an important part of CaféSmart. We can inform our staff and customers about the outcomes, and about the projects that their donations have supported.”

With the coveted honour of Top Roaster for three years running, Rafael is not feeling the pressure.

“We want to raise more awareness, and to raise more money, so that we make more of difference.

For us it’s not about taking the prize – we want to bring people along for the cause, and engage people with the issue of homelessness.

One single cup of coffee can change lives if it’s done well.”

You can #HelpYourHood this #CafeSmart campaign by signing up your café, or looking for your local this August 4.

 

 

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Local People Fight to End Homelessness

By | CafeSmart, News, Uncategorised | No Comments

We are one month away from CafeSmart – one of the biggest campaigns in the StreetSmart calendar. Behind the scenes, our Sponsors, Roasting Partners, and participating cafes are gearing up to raise funds for homeless services in their local area. Amid the madness that goes into the campaign, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on why it matters.

Homelessness is complex, and its impacts are far reaching.

Funding to the homelessness sector is a complicated web of federal and state government agreements. Too often the first thing on the chopping block when populist sentiment wins over good governance.

When governments retreat from their obligations to our society’s most vulnerable – the responsibility falls on the already struggling not-for-profit sector to make up the difference.

CafeSmart grants pool locally raised donations and direct them into local services that are working on the front lines. These are services that are serving up hot meals, putting roofs over people’s heads, and proving relief packages to people in need.

Youth Futures’ team

One organisation CafeSmart has continued to support over the years is Youth Futures. One of their programs supports young mums to break the cycle of homelessness, and to keep children from needlessly going into state care. Despite the obvious good for the families they assist and the broader community –  they have no government support.

West Coast cafes – Go Coffee Go, Myrtle Ivy, and Yahava are among those getting behind outcomes for Perth. Their efforts have helped to keep Youth Futures programs running.

Another great program CafeSmart donations have supported is Travellers Aid. They do vital work to assist people in crisis. They provide material aid, like hygiene products and phone cards, as well as hot showers, access to phone and internet and travel vouchers. Despite being an important drop-in service for the growing number of rough sleepers, Travellers Aid lost government funding and now depend on the support of grants.

Travellers Aid

Mr Grazier, Higher Ground, Earl Canteen, Blended Beard and Sensory Lab are among our Melbourne locals who keep Travel Aid’s programs open to the city’s most vulnerable.

When governments fail to step up, local people are stepping in. CafeSmart is a day of good will, and hard work by roasters, cafes owners, staff and local people who want to see things change for the better.

CafeSmart is about keeping a young mum and child together, or offering a hot shower to a person in need. It is about providing a leg-up, rather than sending people packing into the cold.

If you’re a café, and want shake up some positive change for your locals, you can sign up here.

If you want to support CafeSmart and #HelpYourHood, find out more here.

 

 

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