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"We are currently getting whooped by NSW. It’s not acceptable" - Ben Clark on CafeSmart

We sat down with Ben Clark from the Mulberry Group to find out why he is such a passionate supporter of CafeSmart. The Mulberry Group owns and runs Higher Ground, Kettle Black and Top Paddock and have been supporting CafeSmart through their popular cafes for a long time.

What do you think others in the hospitality industry can learn from the Mulberry Groups example in promoting and supporting CafeSmart?

The big one for us is using our social media platforms to talk about CafeSmart and not just to our customers but to other cafe operators, we would love as many other cafes as possible to sign up.

We also want to get the conversation started early with our customers to make sure they know about CafeSmart and why we support it, the posters and table cards help with this.

We also know Victorian cafes need to lift their game, and customers need to apply pressure to get their local to get involved.

Victoria should be leading the charge and we are currently getting whooped by NSW, it’s not acceptable. If Melbourne is supposedly the coffee capital of the world then we should be using that platform to raise money and awareness for such an important social and economic issue.

Why should people care about cafesmart?

People should care about cafesmart because it tackles the issues of homelessness on a grassroots level. The money that is raised goes to organisations within the community it comes from. These organisations deal with issues that include mental health and domestic violence which are the leading causes of homelessness in Australia.

And for the consumer it’s such an easy way to make a difference, they just need to make sure they buy a coffee from a cafe that is participating in CafeSmart.

Where do you see your role in this whole effort?

Our role is to talk to our customers and our team about CafeSmart and raise awareness of issues surrounding homelessness. Homelessness is always talked about when it is time to vote but then very quickly brushed aside and pushed to a different part of town when the next exciting opportunity arises. Our job is to keep the conversation going and raise money.

Adam and his crew at StreetSmart do the hard and incredible work, they get out to these grass roots organisations that really make change.

What role do you see the community playing in solving homelessness?

If people care about these issues then they should start by applying pressure on their local cafe or restaurant to get involved in the StreetSmart programs. CafeSmart in August and DineSmart in December. Buying a Big Issue is another great way to help.

Community members and groups should also apply pressure on local members of parliament and question what is being done in their community. Questions need to be asked how there can be such a demand for affordable housing while at the same time have so many multi-level residential developments popping up with such low occupancy rates due to high rent.

Who do you think has a part to play in making homelessness a thing of the past?

Let’s start in Melbourne. We need to start looking at this a bit more holistically and be a bit more creative in our thinking about how we use underutilised land and vacant buildings.

Often government owned land is sold off to developers. Then you get these high rise apartments with such little occupancy due to high rents which are the result of benefits high income earners get from negative gearing.

People who come from marginalised communities need affordable housing. Once someone's got a bit of safety around them then they can start to go ‘oh cool, now I can start looking at getting a job. I can start to feel safe’.

How do you feel about the fact that the money raised goes directly to the community in which it is raised?

That's the thing that first attracted us to Cafesmart. It’s such a great way to raise money that goes directly to grassroots organisations.

We look at ourselves as community hubs whether it’s in the CBD, Richmond or South Melbourne, homelessness affects people everywhere and we want to be able do something meaningful about that.

What would you say to cafe owners or roasters who are thinking about joining CafeSmart?

For any of you slackers out there that haven’t signed up for cafesmart and not to mention DineSmart in December, get onboard. It’s one of the easiest things you can do, you can really make a change in our society and it’s a long term, enduring project, that is sustainable.

To get involved, tap here to find your nearest CafeSmart cafe.

Ping has joined forces with CafeSmart to #helpyourhood and fight homelessness.