If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, you’re at a higher risk of being homeless. That was one of the findings of the Queensland Government’s 2011-2014 Strategy For Reducing Homelessness.
These statistics ring true for Open Doors Youth Service general manager Pam Barker. “LGBTQI youth have a high prevalence of finding themselves homeless due to family breakdown [and] lack of acceptance,” she says. “Unfortunately when it breaks down in the home, young people don’t have the money or the resources to just leave and find something better.”
Open Doors is a provider of advocacy and support for LGBTQI young people in Brisbane and South East Queensland. The Fortitude Valley-based charity organisation provides a safe space and range of support services for LGBTQI youth aged 12 to 24 who have diverse genders, bodies and sexualities, including those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Open Doors’s central aim is to prevent homelessness in the first place. “However, we do get a lot of young people turning up on our door with their belongings,” says Barker. When this happens the organisation does what it can to “get them what they need and keep them safe”, including meals prepared by young people already in Open Doors programs.
The small charity organisation, run by part-time staff and volunteers, supports up to 146 young people at any one time. It provides a range of support services from counselling and mediation through to support accessing housing, employment and training, and referrals to other support services they may require. The team also provides education programs, school outreach and parents’ programs to support parents and keep families together. “We’re kind of a one-stop shop,” Barker says.
Helping keep Open Doors running is CafeSmart. An annual initiative that turns your morning coffee into a tool for fighting homelessness, the organisation receives $1 from every coffee bought at a partnering cafe on the designated day and donates the proceeds to local charities providing services to the homeless. Last year CafeSmart raised $160,523 from coffee drinkers at 540 cafes Australia-wide.
Of that, $4000 went to Open Doors’s Jelly Bean program, which is specifically designed to cater to the complex and diverse needs of gender nonconforming youth who make up 65 percent of the Open Doors cohort. Within this program, the Open Doors staff and volunteers are supporting mental health concerns and a high risk of homelessness. Of the approximately 90 youth in the program, 14 per cent have attempted suicide, 15 per cent are practicing self-harm, 36 per cent experience depression, 31 per cent have diagnosed anxiety and 19 per cent are at risk of or are currently homelessness.
Without CafeSmart donations this specific program wouldn’t exist. “It had a huge impact. Every little dollar has a huge impact,” Barker says. “We wouldn’t have done it without it.”
Marcus Alison, co-owner of John Mills Himself, is a long-time partner of CafeSmart. Cafes are matched by location to charities, and in 2016 the money collected by this tiny CBD grotto found its way to Open Doors. “CafeSmart makes it really easy for us to do and every year we’ve done it it’s been better and better working with them,” Allison says. “People are normally pretty stoked that we are giving $1 from every coffee for a day and for them being able to get behind it is really nice. I’m always really happy with where the money goes – it’s always really practical little local charities”
Open Doors 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.
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