The Meeting Place Cafe in Goodna has a pay-it-forward service to help the homeless connect and have access to a warm cup of coffee. Blake Arnott pictured with a coffee someone has kindly paid for.
The Meeting Place Cafe in Goodna has a pay-it-forward service to help the homeless connect and have access to a warm cup of coffee. Blake Arnott pictured with a coffee someone has kindly paid for. Sarah Marshall

How a coffee is changing the lives of homeless people

AN IPSWICH business is pioneering a unique and heartwarming "pay it forward" model.

The Meeting Place at Goodna is home to an innovative system that allows customers to shout someone in need a coffee. Linked to the Salvation Army, the Meeting Place is open to homeless people and those doing it tough to sit down to a cappuccino or latte donated by the community.

Manager Arlouise Brooking said the "suspended" coffee program was adapted from an American model to suit the need in the Goodna community.

"What we do here is we offer a (place) where people can come in and purchase an extra coffee and then others can redeem them," Ms Brooking said.

"For us, we have the opinion that it impacts people's lives on a different level.

"It's not just about the coffee. We get into the conversation about what they have planned for the rest of the day. Half of the people who redeem them are homeless so it's about giving them a different vision to look to for the rest of the day. They might have had a rough night, but really creating a space where they feel invited, welcome and safe to start their day is really important.

"We offer a way to turn their day around, whether with a coffee or a chat. We are able to build a relationship and create a safe environment.

"A lot of the time these people are frowned upon and judged and a lot of the time are not made to feel welcome."

Ms Brooking said customers donated up to 20 coffees a week but there was always a need for more.

"We would love for that to be increased," she said. "When we can see there is a real need, we do cover the cost when there is not a coffee available."

Pop into The Meeting Place, 27 Smiths Rd, Goodna, to redeem a suspended coffee or to donate one to the program.

More important than a coffee for homeless

The Meeting Place Cafe in Goodna has a pay-it-forward service to help the homeless connect and have access to a warm cup of coffee. Blake Arnott (left) and Kelly Robertson (right) enjoy a coffee.
The Meeting Place Cafe in Goodna has a pay-it-forward service to help the homeless connect and have access to a warm cup of coffee. Blake Arnott (left) and Kelly Robertson (right) enjoy a coffee. Sarah Marshall

A COFFEE can make an immeasurable difference to someone's life.

For 24-year-old homeless man Blake Arnott, waking up in a shelter and knowing there is a coffee waiting for him at next-door cafe The Meeting Place, is sometimes all the motivation he needs.

He's one of many homeless people in the Goodna community who turn to friendly faces at the cafe when he needs a bit of a coffee boost, a chat or even somewhere to feel welcome.

"The best thing about it, is the hellos in the morning. It helps me because it's a gesture in a way, it warms me to know someone else out there has put aside a coffee or spent their own money that they've earned to make sure somebody is not left out of the picture," Mr Arnott said.

"Everywhere I go people look down on me but I can come in here and sit down and talk to people and they're very inviting.

"I have had a lot of help. The Salvation Army have looked after me and kept me safe but coffee gets me up in the morning, it keeps me motivated to keep going."

Mr Arnott has been living at the Salvation Army for close to seven months and has made the most of the Meeting Place suspended coffee program since then.

"My family has walked away from me so I don't have much connection with people and I have walked away from a bad past. It's a little bit hard to come back from," he said.

"The coffee warms me up but so does the conversation because my family is not around.

"I am never left out of the picture. It's closer than family and I connect better than I would if I was out on the street. I would recommend anyone to come here if they are feeling lost or left out or unheard or if they're hungry."

Kelly Robertson, 38, has popped into the cafe every day since she became homeless three years ago.

"I feel it's good for the community. It's great because there a lot of homeless people in the community," she said.

"You don't have to answer to anybody and you always have someone there to defend you whereas elsewhere you have no support from others."



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