Menu: Great coffee, company and conversation
Cafes are a familiar sight as you walk down the streets of Australia’s cities and towns. We love our coffee, and we love catching up with our friends for a chat over a cuppa and a meal. There’s something about it that brings us together, and feeds the part of us that craves more than just food and drink.
Across Australia, the Salvos are using this cafe culture to help the most vulnerable among us, not only providing for people’s material needs but helping build communities and giving people an opportunity to belong.
Despite the seasonal menu and the reasonably priced yet stylish cafe meals, The Olive Branch Cafe, Hamilton, in New South Wales is not quite the same as the many other busy cafes near the Newcastle CBD. It’s part of a program that provides young people with the opportunity to develop hands-on work skills. Life impact is its main aim.
Olive Branch Cafe chef Jake Satcliffe with cafe recruit Jack Bradley
Through the cafe, the Salvos provide training and experience from skilled chefs, offering its students Certificate III in Hospitality, which is a nationally recognised training course.
Young people aged from 15–25 who are dealing with anger, depression and homelessness are referred to the program through school, job providers and other support agencies. It’s been incredibly successful, with a 70% completion rate and almost half those completing the training going on to find employment.
In Victoria, The Salvation Army’s Melbourne Project 614 cafe also delivers more than meals and coffee—though that is something they do very well. The Lighthouse (formerly Hamodava) Cafe provides between 1,500 and 2,000 meals a week, but it also facilitates a sense of community for many of Melbourne’s most vulnerable people.
And a wonderful aspect is that anyone is welcome here, so office workers from the buildings around the project’s CBD location are also regulars. The high-quality meals and coffee are more than competitive with the offerings from other food and coffee outlets nearby. People pay what they are able to, meaning that those who can’t afford to get a meal anywhere else can be well fed here.
Nourishment also strongly filters through the sense of community that has been created at the cafe. Many people have become regulars, and staff spend time talking to them and catching up on what’s happening in their lives. Fears, faith and friendship are some of the topics discussed in this safe environment.
When speaking with Others magazine about a pilot program that utilised the cafe as a safe night resting space Major Brendan Nottle, leader of 614, said: “Through the pilot [program] we learned that there is a cohort of people who have accommodation and bedding but are just incredibly lonely.”
Because they are treated as more than just customers, or clients, the cafe is a place where people connect and build relationships. Many come in for a meal and stay until closing time. The space is then converted to an area where people can set up bedding and sleep in a space that is not only sheltered from the elements, but provides a feeling of safety and security.
Staff are trained to identify potential problems before they occur and, because of the relationships they build with regulars, they have an informed awareness of what is happening in their lives. This helps in connecting them with other services to help with ongoing problems.
Project 614 has also built an excellent relationship with Victoria Police, who regularly pop in to the cafe to provide a visible presence as well as spending time talking to the vulnerable.
The Project also has a mobile coffee van that travels around the CBD, working as a social enterprise. The coffee van’s profits go directly to support Melbourne 614’s programs, some of which are a visible presence in the community—going out to meet those who can’t always come to the Project.
Project 614 has become a key part of the Salvos’ work to help the homeless and vulnerable in Melbourne, working in partnership with state and local governments, as well as corporate supporters like the Collingwood Football Club which provides many of the volunteers who help keep the programs running.
It’s a demonstration of the power of community and the way in which sharing in people’s lives over a cup of coffee or a meal can make a positive and lasting difference. While providing food and shelter is vitally important, the add-on of body, mind and spirit, non-judgmental care gives everyone something equally vital—a sense of belonging that nourishes the soul.
We pray that this glimpse from two of the many programs the Salvos are running across the country every day will encourage you. As we come alongside people at their point of need with the aim of transforming their lives through the love of Jesus we seek your prayers and practical participation. It’s not only about providing a cup of coffee or a cheap meal—but also offering a chance at a new life.
The Olive Branch Cafe
67 Cleary Street
Hamilton NSW 2303
9 am–2.30 pm Monday–Friday
Phone: (02) 49698066
The Lighthouse Cafe (formerly Hamodava)
69 Bourke Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
Morning Cafe: 9 am–1 pm Monday–Friday
Twilight Cafe: 4 pm–11 pm 7 days
Night Cafe: 11 pm–7 am 7 days
Volunteers play an important role at Salvo cafes and receive a great sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment.
If you would like to volunteer visit salvos.org.au/get-involved/volunteering (Olive Branch) or salvosmelbourne.com.au/volunteering (The Lighthouse)