Stop homelessness the delicious way

STREAT is a social enterprise that provides homeless youth with the life-skills, work experience and training they require to start a career in the hospitality industry. Our Melbourne based cafes, catering and coffee roasting businesses provide the venues (and some of the funds) needed to support these amazing young people.

Take a look at our opening times and locations, and pay us a visit! According to our customers, you’ll find our food and coffee is actually delicious!

Or, if you prefer, shop on-line and we will deliver you some more goodies!

STREAT’s founders, Rebecca Scott and Kate Barrelle, were inspired by KOTO, a training program and restaurant providing street youth with job opportunities in Vietnam. They kick-started STREAT in 2010 with two small food carts in Melbourne’s Federation Square and a class of nine trainees. STREAT has grown rapidly and now sold around 500,000 meals and coffees and provided almost 5,000 days of training and work experience to over 100 local street youth. Many have gone on to further education or found their first job. Two trainees from that first class are now fully qualified Chefs in Melbourne.

STREAT also recently won a national award for being Australia’s Most Innovative Social Enterprise.

STREAT - Blog

Youth Week 2014 - Finding the way home

Finding the way home

By Rebecca Scott, STREAT’s co-founder and CEO

I still remember the day. I’m pretty sure it was the 23rd December 2001.

Looking for adventure my partner and I had precariously ridden on the back of two motorbikes from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City down the dangerous highway to the city of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. It was a very harrowing 170km ride and a great relief when we finally found ourselves sitting in a park, stuffed full of delicious food and ready to enjoy the sunset. We watched the local children playing around the garden beds and under an enormous silver statue of Ho Chi Minh with outstretched arms. I played with some of the children, chasing them through the gardens and teaching them how to thumb wrestle, their shrieks of laughter disappearing into the balmy twilight. They soon disappeared too, leaving the park to head for home.

Except one small boy. After another round of thumb wrestling the two of us sat silently on the park bench, his small grubby hand nestled in mine. I’m not sure how long it took me to realise that he wasn’t going to be leaving the park that night. Or that the bench we were sitting on was his bed.

As the city grew quiet we finally rode off into the night, leaving this small boy to sleep under the silver outstretched arms of Ho Chi Minh. Overcome with helplessness, I closed my eyes and let the wind blow my tears out into the darkness. I lay awake all night under the mosquito net, watching the fan whir around as I wrestled internally with my responsibility to a small homeless boy in a far away country. This was the first night of sleep I lost over homelessness.

Over the coming years I continued to lose sleep thinking about the issue of homelessness. I was angry at the injustice of it, frustrated by the intractability of it, and saddened by the complete devastation it wrought in people’s lives. Finally the issue became too big to ignore and my partner Kate and I left our public service jobs in Canberra to embark upon building STREAT, a Melbourne-based social enterprise working with homeless and disadvantaged young people.

STREAT was designed in part by our frustration with the existing system that treated homelessness as primarily an accommodation issue. The system seemed focussed on crisis accommodation and short-term relief, often neglecting the complex set of personal circumstances that might lead a young person into homelessness, and often similarly neglecting the wide range of supports a young person needed to get them out of it. We wanted to build a holistic model that understood that to thrive a young person needed not just a stable home, but also a stable life, and a stable job. Specifically we built a model providing specialist supports and life skills, all whilst a young person gets the necessary training and experience to start a career in the hospitality industry. 

Over the last five years at STREAT we’ve worked with over 180 young people. As well as sourcing secure accommodation for them, we’ve worked with our youth on their family problems, their issues with drug and alcohol abuse, or their mental health, to name just a few. We’ve also provided them with over 30,000 hours of hospitality training and work within our numerous inner city cafes. And it’s here, surrounded by a bunch of caring and ever-patient chefs, baristas ad hospitality staff that we slowly try to rebuild a young person’s life – meal by meal, coffee by coffee. And with each young person we’ve kept confirming that homelessness is not the same as houselessness.

But this has been no surprise to Kate and I. For our home is more than just a house because of the faces that smile down from the photo wall in our kitchen. It’s a home because of the squeals of delight we hear from our son Will and his friends jumping on the trampoline, the smell of our weekend roast cooking in the oven, the chalk hopscotch that Will and I made down the back laneway that had 138 squares to jump in, the 82 year old Nona we kiss on both cheeks every time we greet her on our front porch, the big kitchen table that we’ve shared hundreds of meals on – the one from Kate’s childhood that still has homework inscribed into the wood by her and her brothers. Our home is not just where we get shelter and protection, but where we feel loved, peaceful, free, connected, nourished, creative, warm, understood, invigorated. It’s where we belong.

This year we’ll further grow STREAT to enable us to work with over 250 young people each year. And our goal is to keep growing so that in a decade we can be helping a young person every single mealtime. In your lifetime you’ll eat over 80,000 meals. We hope that one day you’ll share one of them with us at STREAT and have a meal that nourishes both yourself – and someone else.

(Bec wrote this Article for Slow Magazine 2014)