Coffee is much more than just a morning routine – it’s a culture. Your local corner cafe can be a focal point for the whole neighbourhood. “Cafes act as natural communities,” says Cynthia Mac Caddon, head of partnerships and fundraising at StreetSmart Australia. It’s people coming together. You’re waiting for coffee, you’re chatting to the people next to you, sparking conversations naturally.”

Every year, StreetSmart launches its CafeSmart campaign, which sees cafes and roasters around the country raise funds to support the charity’s work with grassroots organisations combating homelessness. Coffee’s ability to foster these little communities and spark vital conversations, Mac Caddon says, is part of the reason CafeSmart has been so successful.

“We work with different industries and the coffee industry does stand out,” she says. “I think it comes down to all these everyday connections. They engage so much with the people in the area and I feel like they build these more informal relationships in everyday chitchat that maybe other industries don’t have.”

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This is important for CafeSmart because, when the initiative rolls around, everyone in the coffee community – cafes, roasters and coffee drinkers – pitches in to help. The campaign lasts a week, with promotional events building up to the Friday when $1 from every cup of coffee sold is donated to StreetSmart. Last year, the collective efforts of 717 cafes, 44 roasters and a number of coffee industry brands raised $147,585.

Corporate partners also play a crucial role in raising awareness and ensuring fundraising goals are met. Vitasoy, for instance, has been a principal sponsor for the last 6 years, and in 2023 the brand released a CafeSmart co-branded almond milk in its Barista’s Choice range that raised over $18,000 through product sales. “This initiative helped us boost our impact response in regional and remote communities, bolstered by a shared commitment to support those most at risk,” Mac Caddon says.

Once fundraising efforts are over for the cafes and their networks, StreetSmart tallies up the money and puts it back into the local community, supporting those who need it most. “The key part of CafeSmart is that funds stay local,” Mac Caddon says. “We distribute cafe’s donations back into their own communities because we have more than 1100 grassroots organisations that we work with, and we believe in the power of local connections to build stronger communities.”

This year, the focus of that funding will be on helping people sleeping rough – those without access to the shelter and amenities that most of us take for granted. With the funds raised through CafeSmart, StreetSmart will work with local charities to help provide immediate support to those sleeping rough and facing homelessness, through hot community meals, medical care, basic essentials like clothing, and tenancy and housing support.

It’s a tough reality that as winter sets in, those without a roof over their heads need help now more than ever – and the crisis is particularly acute this year, says Mac Caddon. “We know that, unfortunately, the cost of living and housing crisis is increasing the demand for support services by more than 30 per cent.”

But she is hopeful that this year will be the biggest yet for CafeSmart. “We’re not about numbers, but we would definitely love to see 800 or 900 Australian cafes participating so that together, we can help end homelessness.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Barista's Choice by Vitasoy.