Now in its fifth year, CafeSmart, the fundraising initiative run by charity organisation StreetSmart, has been assisting grassroots community projects that help people experiencing homelessness.

With an emphasis on local communities, $1 from each coffee purchased at participating cafes will be channeled back into charities that directly assist people within that locality.

Many of these organisations struggle with a lack of resources and access to funding. Though one dollar might seem insignificant, the CafeSmart donations are crucial in keeping their programs running.

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The Iramoo Youth Refuge in Footscray is one such organisation that benefits hugely from donations received from the CafeSmart Day. For 37 years, Iramoo has offered support to disadvantaged young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness by providing safe accommodation. The refuge is one of the oldest and smallest services in Melbourne still offering this kind of care and support, where people from 16 to 25 years of age can seek accommodation before moving to the organisation’s transitional housing.

The donations from StreetSmart are used to purchase Iramoo’s Entry and Exit Packs, which provide young people with basic household items, such as a kettle, toaster, bedding, clothes and shampoo.

“The funds from CafeSmart are hugely beneficial, because our own funding doesn’t cover the cost of these packs,” says acting manager Sharna Theobald. “The donations are crucial to what we can provide and their support has been paramount.”

Cafes supporting the Footscray refuge include West 48, Rudimentary, Sourdough Kitchen and The Reading Room, all of which will donate $1 of your coffee to StreetSmart, which will direct the funds to the charity organisation.

Over in the south, if you purchase a coffee from cafes including Two Locals, The Colonel’s Son or Merchant’s Guild, your dollar will be donated to the Emerge Women and Children’s Support Network, the only independent specialist domestic violence service in the Bayside–Peninsula area.

For more than 40 years the not-for-profit has been supporting women and children experiencing family violence through outreach support, community education, art therapy and legal support.

The organisation provides safe, communal living for five families for up to 12 weeks, after which staff helps clients secure more permanent housing and offers support for the next year.

Emerge’s executive officer Paula Westhead says finding the necessary funding is always a challenge for the organisation, which has not received a funding increase in six years, despite the growing number of clients.

“We’re only funded for the building and the staff who work at the refuge,” she says. “All our additional programs are possible through fundraising and donations, so the money from StreetSmart is really crucial for what we can provide.”

With the donations from CafeSmart on August 7, women are given linen packs, which include doonas, pillows, sheets and towels, which they have during their time at the refuge and take with them when they move on.

“It may seem small, but these packs really help families settle into their new lives,” Westhead says. “CafeSmart has been really important for us in being able to give these women and children the support they need, as well as making the organisation more well known.”

23 cafes in the CBD are participating in the event, including, Filter, EARL, Sensory Lab and Axil Coffee Roasters. Their donations are being channeled into the city-based not-for-profit The Big Issue.

Since launching the first Australian The Big Issue magazine in 1996, the organisation has since grown to include a wide range of programs and services to help develop solutions to assist homeless and marginalised people positively change their lives.

The donations from CafeSmart allow the organisation to strengthen its Vendor Support Program, for which disadvantaged people sell magazines to earn an income.

“As well as earning a living, people also get a chance to increase their self-esteem, build confidence and interact with the community, all of which a lot of them have never experienced before,” state operations manager Gemma Pidutti says. “The aim is that they’re out there, getting new skills, earning a living and interacting with the community.”

Pidutti says the donations from CafeSmart have a significant impact on what the organisation can provide for their vendors.

“The CafeSmart donations really give us an opportunity to help our vendors improve their selling technique and make a good impression,” she says. “For us these donations mean we can offer more assistance and resources to our vendors that we normally wouldn’t be able to provide. These are the little things that make such a big difference.”

For more information about CafeSmart this Friday 7 August, and to see participating cafes, visit the website.