For one day a year you can raise money for the homeless by doing something you already do – buy a coffee.

That’s thanks to StreetSmart Australia – which works to support people who are homeless or at risk in Australia – and its annual one-day fundraising campaign, CafeSmart. For one-day neighbourhood cafes are transformed into donation centres for organisations, such as Perth-based charity Youth Futures WA. All it takes from you is a cup of coffee.

Returning this year on August 3, CafeSmart asks cafes across Australia to donate $1 for every coffee sold to a local, grassroots organisation that deal with issues related to homelessness. Participating cafes this year include Sixteen Ounces, Grouch and Co. and Little Angel. (See this year’s participating cafes here.)

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CafeSmart has been contributing grants raised by the program in Perth to Youth Futures since 2011. According to Youth Futures’ business development manager Erica Blaney, the money helps maintain a variety of interlaced programs.

“We help disadvantaged and at-risk young people by giving them the support and skills they need to create a brighter future,” says Blaney. “This can be helping them with their education or the issue of homelessness.”

Last year’s CafeSmart funds went toward Youth Futures’ NEST program, which supports young mums at risk of losing their baby because of their homeless status.

“We provide them with supported accommodation to give them a safe, secure place to live,” says Blaney. “From there we give them more intensive support so they can take care of their baby and create a plan to move out of that home, find employment and so on. CafeSmart’s funds mean we can give them access to essentials like nappies, clothing [and] formula every month.”

While Youth Futures has a total staff of around 50, the NEST program has only one part-time staff member, who assists 30 to 40 mums each year. The program doesn’t receive government funding, which makes CafeSmart’s contributions to the local community especially welcome. Other Youth Futures services include the education-oriented Anchor Point and programs, which are critical to the organisation’s holistic approach to helping young people get onto their feet.

“They offer a space for young people who have disengaged with mainstream high-school for a range of reasons,” says Blaney. “Sometimes it’s bullying, or learning difficulties, behavioural issues, or drug and alcohol issues. We give them a flexible learning environment where they can come in and learn at their own pace.”

Participants receive tailored support, thanks to a 1-to-7 ratio of teachers to students – in contrast with the 1-to-30 ratio common in mainstream schooling. They’re encouraged and supported to tackle the personal issues that may have impacted their education, and to emerge with everyday life skills such as budgeting, cooking and creating a CV.

“If young people are homeless, it’s all well and good to make sure they have a roof over their heads,” says Blaney. “But education is the key to gaining employment. We’re preparing young people for the real world, and that’s why we have a huge focus on life skills and tailoring to what that young person feels their strengths and interests are.”

Youth Futures also assists with longer-term housing solutions. “We try to get young people to come up with a plan for where they’re going to go next,” she says. Ideally they can mediate to return to the family home, or otherwise work towards living independently with support from youth workers.

“The young people we’re supporting have pretty complex needs,” Blaney says. “We can’t just support one aspect of what they’re needing help with. So we make sure they have all the essentials they need to focus on those personal issues and goals.”

The help can be large or small – something as simple as securing nappies for young mums or paying for a baby photograph. Something worth keeping in mind on Friday August 3.

“We’ve been very fortunate to be supported by the cafes in our local community,” says Blaney. “We definitely encourage other cafes to get involved.”

Youth Futures WA is just one of many WA organisations supported by CafeSmart, an initiative that unites the community over coffee to help fund local homelessness services. CafeSmart returns August 3. Find participating cafes here. Roasters can become partners here. Cafe owners can sign up to CafeSmart here.

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