Buying a coffee is about to become a whole lot more meaningful. On August 4 more than 500 cafes throughout Australia will take part in the CafeSmart program.

Participating cafes will donate $1 from every cup of coffee sold to local programs tackling homelessness. As well as the automatic donation, patrons can leave additional contributions in a box at the cafe, or donate digitally via the CafeSmart website.

South Australian charity Essentials 4 Women was one of the recipients of CafeSmart donations last year and will be involved again next month. Founded just over two years ago, the organisation helps women who are homeless by providing essentials such as sanitary items, underwear and toiletries – all of which are rarely donated to charities.

Co-founder Amy Rust says the funding from CafeSmart was instrumental in helping the charity find its feet in its early days. “They’ve been supporting us … pretty much since the beginning,” Rust says. “It’s not large sums of money – it’s 1000, maybe 2500 dollars – but it’s really been essential to us getting set up. We’ve used it for buying donation bins and buying the bags that we put our period packs and sanitary items in.”

To date, Essentials 4 Women has collected more than 270,000 product donations and has drop-off points across the state. And there’s more on the horizon. Rust and her team have just moved into their first dedicated space in the CBD (they’d previously been using Rust’s home and a storage shed), and will start work on two pilot projects.

For the first the organisation will team up with the Australian Dental Foundation to help women suffering oral trauma from domestic violence. According to Homelessness Australia, domestic and family violence is the number-one reason people seek out homeless services; 55 per cent of female clients (and 25 per cent of all clients) cite this reason.

The second project will focus on providing schools with vending machines that dispense free pads and tampons. “The amount of schools that have been contacting us over the last six months about girls who don’t have sanitary items and can’t afford them has grown and grown,” says Rust. “It’s really heartbreaking to hear this is happening in South Australia. You’d think it’s a developing-country problem, but it’s not.”

Rust is optimistic this year’s CafeSmart will raise further awareness of the unique – and largely unacknowledged – challenges faced by homeless women, and inspire a broad range of people to contribute to the cause. “People recognise that if they buy their coffee from a specific place for that day – instead of where they might usually get it – they’re not spending any more money,” Rust says. “They’re actually helping people in a way that they might not have done before.”

Essentials 4 Women is supported by CafeSmart, an initiative that unites the community over coffee to help fund local homelessness services. CafeSmart returns August 4. Find participating cafes here. Roasters can become partners here. Cafe owners can sign up to CafeSmart here.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of CafeSmart.

If you would like to know more about support services available for family and domestic violence, contact the 1800 Respect national helpline on 1800 737 732.