“Helping the mob to help themselves” is the proud motto of Innari, a longstanding support service for Aboriginal families, youths and adults who are either experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness in the Sydney area.
“We let them know that they are not alone, and [that] there are people who genuinely care about them,” says manager Christine Mantakul. She has worked for the organisation since 1986, the year of its inception. “We help with things like bond or rent [and] ongoing court support to link them with other services like health and rehabilitation.”
Named after an Aboriginal word meaning women’s shelter, Innari was funded by the Department of Housing as part of the Women’s Housing program in the second half of the 1980s. Since then, Innari has transferred to Family and Community Services (FACS) and now has a regular staff of four. It’s exactly the kind of small but vital organisation that gets funding from StreetSmart’s national CafeSmart program, which all starts with a simple cup of coffee.
The one-day fundraising campaign, returning on August 3 this year, asks cafes across Australia to donate $1 for every coffee sold to a local, grassroots organisation dealing with issues around homelessness. Coffee roasters also join in to donate some of the beans, while customers are encouraged to match the cafe’s $1-per-coffee contribution. It all adds up, and Innari uses those donations to help Aboriginal people with both immediate help and long-term housing.
“One of our key initiatives is that we have no time limit,” says Mantakul. “Our doors are never closed, and we will offer them support for as long as necessary to help maintain their tenancy and a healthy lifestyle.” A high priority for Innari is obviously finding housing for its client, as Mantakul explains: “Many factors that originally were exacerbated because of being homeless can easily be erased with rapid rehousing.” That said, the organisation also gives out essential items to rough sleepers in winter months, including hats, socks, backpacks, scarves, sleeping bags and reusable water bottles.
And of course, it’s not always just the one problem existing in isolation. “Many of our clients are suffering from mental health [issues], drug dependencies, long-term homelessness [and] incarceration,” she says. And as Aboriginal people, their issues have sometimes been compounded. “[Some] are members of the Stolen Generation or who have had their own children removed. They may also be sufferers of violence both lateral and domestic – victims of society who have been left behind.”
The staff at Innari work closely with other organisations to get their clients every bit of long-term help and care they need. Their outreach covers all the bases. Sometimes it’s something as simple as providing sheets, towels and curtains when clients move in, or even the moving costs. Or maybe it’s supplying a phone to a client who’s waiting to hear back about a property. Often it’s the little things.
That’s what makes CafeSmart’s annual contributions – generously funded by coffee lovers, cafes and roasters in local communities – so very valuable. Keep that in mind when the campaign returns this year on Friday, August 3.
“The funds allow us to assist people to access or maintain independent accommodation,” says Mantakul, “by addressing issues that put them at risk of homelessness or prevent them from accessing accommodation.” She thanks StreetSmart and CafeSmart on behalf of Innari, adding, “The opportunity for us to be able to provide assistance to our clients is greatly appreciated.”
Innari is 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.