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November 29, 2012

From the Streat Corner

True stories are often the hardest to swallow.

Before we talk about the great coffee and food at STREAT, let me tell you the story of young “Jimmy” – a graduate of STREAT’s hospitality training and life-skills program.

Jimmy still feels overwhelmingly sad about the way his mother, father and step-father treated him from early childhood. These were the people who were supposed to love him. When he came out as gay in his late teens, he suffered such strong abuse at home, that he decided homelessness was a better option. He was safer on the streets, but still very unsafe (this is an all too common situation). To cope, Jimmy started heavily self-medicating with cannabis, which then triggered psychotic episodes and depression. He says he is now “getting my life together”, and joining the STREAT program has been the catalyst for that change. “The trainees and staff at STREAT are the first people in my life who have accepted me and supported me completely”.

After graduating from STREAT, Jimmy went on to a full-time apprenticeship in hospitality and then a job as an Assistant Manager at a city restaurant. He lives in a rental property with his boyfriend.

So far, STREAT has helped 52 young people, all of whom face these incredibly difficult personal situations. We hope to help many thousands more.

Young people, like Jimmy, can be amazingly resilient and recover from the most traumatic experiences. But they need a bridge, from the streets to self-confidence and hope, and they need a whole lot of love – often tough love. That’s what STREAT provides. That’s why it works.

Now for the inside story on STREAT. It’s a non-profit social enterprise that supports and trains disengaged and homeless young people for six months across its three STREAT cafés and coffee roasting business in Melbourne. Trainees learn to prepare and serve fantastic meals and coffees, as well as developing professional experience and life-skills. They also study at the William Angliss Institute and, upon graduation, receive a nationally recognised Certificate I and II in hospitality.

There are over 105,000 homeless people in Australia – and 45% are under the age of 25. This is intolerable, but it is fixable – and that’s a story for another time. Becoming homeless is often the final horrible fall for a person who has spent a long time living precariously around the edges of society. The majority of the young people at STREAT have very high needs and barriers to training and employment. Listing here the range of issues they face does not convey the reality of facing them: Homelessness (100%), Drug and alcohol (69%), Mental health (53%), Family violence (48%), Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background (48%), Health problems (42%), Legal issues (41%), Caring for sibling or parent (30%), Anger management (27%), Department of Human Services involvement (27%). And this not the full list.

STREAT’s social support team has to work extremely hard to find young people (aged between 16 and 24) who are willing and able to take on the program. This may seem counter-intuitive, but these young people are constantly on the move and committing to six months of training is daunting and often impractical. Turning up on time, in good shape for a cooking class or a café shift, is one of the biggest achievements of the trainees. It is the first key step in rebuilding young lives.

As these amazing young people get closer to their graduation, the staff at STREAT begin seeking suitable employment and education options and helping them get job ready. This is where we need the assistance of like-minded cafés and employers.

STREAT opened its first little food cart in Federation Square in March 2010 and now has three cafés and a boutique coffee roasting business. We have found 65 housing options and provided over 30,000 hours of training and support for the 52 young people who have been in the STREAT program. These trainees have learnt how to prepare and serve many thousands of the now more than 300,000 meals and coffees STREAT has provided to Melbournians. Five full classes of young people have now graduated, with the majority finding jobs – most for the first time in their lives.

These trainees have helped serve many thousands of (more than 300,000) delicious meals and coffees that STREAT has provided to Melbournians. That’s why we thank all of our wonderful customers for helping us stop homelessness – one mouthful at a time.

You too can help stop homelessness, just by visiting a STREAT café or our website. Every purchase you make counts. There’s a good maxim for life – make every purchase count.

For more information on the many other ways that you can help with this great cause, contact us at:
E. Ian.Johnson@streat.com.au
W. www.streat.com.au

 





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