Coffee is a ritual that many of us take for granted; for some it is a luxury they cannot afford. However, two Newcastle businessowners have helped to make it more accessible with their concept of suspended coffees and meals. They have extended this kindness to our city’s most vulnerable, those sleeping rough in local streets and parks, during Newcastle’s inaugural Registry Week.
Registry Week is based on a survey to actively record the number of rough sleepers in the region and find out their needs and support them to find suitable housing.
Funded by Nova for Women and Children through NSW’s Family and Community Services and coordinated by the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, under the banner of “Together Ending Homelessness – Newcastle”, Registry Week has been selected as the starting point to address the plight of rough sleepers locally. It is a proven method that has produced solid data and results in the US, Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra.
Early on the mornings of October 18 to 20, rough sleepers in the Newcastle LGA will be interviewed to find out their individual needs. Those interviewed will receive a suspended coffee and meal voucher.
Suspended coffee started in Naples working-class cafes. A person who had experienced good luck would buy two coffees, drink one and leave the money for the other to be used for someone down on their luck. In 2013, Irishman John Sweeney revived the tradition and it started to spread globally.
After reading about it, and Stephanie Whitehead of Suspension Espresso and Chris Johnston of Good Brother Espresso started to give suspended coffees and meals, thanks to their customers who donated $3.80 for a coffee and $10 for meal and coffee.
“I thought it was a way to help out in a small way. A simple thing that had an immediate impact. We have seen it give people some normality, as it is a ritual that everyone can relate to. It can provide comfort, conversation and a smile. Thanks to our customers it has been running ever since,” Stephanie said.
In the three years, she estimates the two shops have served more than 5,500 suspended coffees and meals.
When Newcastle Registry Week coordinator Michael Fitzpatrick approached Stephanie about the vouchers she didn’t hesitate and committed to supply a hundred.
At both shops, customers can buy a suspended voucher for $10 or pop spare change into a donation jar, which will go towards the vouchers.
“We feel lucky to have a roof over our heads, enough to eat and take holidays. We have wanted to help people sleeping rough. It seemed serendipitous and we wanted to seize it,” she said.
Stephanie said she encouraged other cafes to try suspended coffees and Registry Week could be a good way to start.
Michael said there were many different ways Newcastle businesses, from a corporate level to individual staff, could be an active part of Registry Week.
“One of the easiest ways is to let employees and clients know about Registry Week and that there is a role for everyone to help,” Michael said. “Other ways include to report a rough sleeper, volunteer or sponsor to be part of registry week, donate a suspended coffee and meal or provide a room or property.”
Image | Cafe owners Chris Johnston and Stephanie Whitehead with Newcastle Registry Week coordinator Michael Fitzpatrick outside the King Street café that has donated 100 suspended coffee and meal vouchers.