This Christmas season StreetSmart Australia is again encouraging restaurants and diners to give back to those in need with its annual DineSmart campaign.

Running from November 14 until New Year’s Eve, diners at participating restaurants are invited to add an extra $2 per table to their bill, which goes to local services tackling homelessness.

According to StreetSmart founder and CEO Adam Robinson, StreetSmart has now raised close to $4 million from Australian diners since it began the campaign in 2003. That money has supported around 1250 grassroots projects and services, from the Melbourne Period Project to The 139 Club in Brisbane.

“We helped set up the street soccer program at The Big Issue,” Robinson says. “We gave the first community grant to the guys who do the Orange Sky Landry, which is a mobile laundry service, so we do a lot of that first funding; sparking ideas or helping seed fund social enterprises and responses … that government wouldn’t typically fund.”

Robinson says homelessness is becoming “increasingly visible” to Australians. “The beauty of DineSmart is that all the money raised stays in the restaurant’s local area.”

Last year funds raised by Chin Chin in Melbourne travelled just 500 metres away to nearby Hosier Lane, where Youth Projects created “winter survival kits” for young people sleeping out in the CBD. In Sydney, The Apollo funds Sydney Homeless Connect.

“Last year we funded a women’s refuge in Perth that bought new pyjamas and linen for each of the women coming through,” Robinson says. “And for the women who often arrive with nothing but the clothes they’re standing in, [that gesture] really brings home to them that they’re in a safe, secure and loving environment, so having funding available for that kind of thing is really important.”

Robinson says the campaign is also a perfect way to “connect restaurants with their customers”.

“Restaurants revolve around people and the community… [DineSmart] connects with their staff and their guests, it gives them something to talk about other than food and wine, so it’s another dimension to their brand.”

With around 45 restaurants already on board across the country, Robinson says he’s now hoping to cast the net even wider.

With Christmas approaching, Robinson says it’s the perfect time for restaurants to get involved.

“They’re busy, there’s lots of tables coming through and people are in that mindset to help out.”

To sign up your restaurant or find a map of participating venues, visit streetsmartaustralia.org/dinesmart.

Broadsheet is a proud media partner of StreetSmart.