There’s much to be said for the power of coffee. Part of the morning ritual for so many, it is often described as a drink that instantly lifts your mood, wakes you up and makes everything better. If I were to describe coffee and its extraordinary power, I would say it is the delicious elixir of life that helps me to ‘people’ like a respectable adult. No exaggeration. And just when I thought I could not love coffee any more than I already do, I discovered Second Shot Espresso, a Brisbane-based social enterprise that tackles youth homelessness in the most incredible way.
Second Shot Espresso is the brainchild of James Christie, a business consultant who left the corporate world behind in 2017 to do something more meaningful. The mission is simple yet powerful, empowering the homeless and disadvantaged with skills, a meaningful job and support to get back on their feet by providing professional training, employment and support. Quite literally, Second Shot Espresso is offering young disadvantaged people a second shot at life.
With the support of former Australian Federal Police commissioner, Mick Keely AO, Second Shot Espresso receiving funding in October 2017 through the State Government’s Dignity First Fund. James started out with two mobile coffee vans and eight young people who were trained and employed to operate vans at various locations across the city. The vans now have established weekly routes in Brisbane’s northern (Nundah, Chermside, Aspley) and western (Toowong, St Lucia, Indooroopilly, Chelmer) suburbs, with plans to expand to Caboolture in the near future.
In just over twelve months Second Shot has taken on 35 disadvantaged youths but the drop-out rate has been high, with around forty per cent dropping out for a range of reasons. James explains that people need to have an element of stability before they can take on such a commitment, with a six to eight weeks of theoretical and practical training required before they become competent baristas. After the training period, they are ready to hit the road in pairs.
“The level of trust is quite high. We actually reach a point where we can trust them, where we say ‘look guys, you’ve got a 7am start on Saturday and Sunday’ and we don’t even have to go in to the office. We know they’ll turn up and we know that they’ll go off and do the job, bring the vans back and do the end of day procedures.”
While there is no minimum or maximum time-frame for how long team members are employed by Second Shot Espresso once they complete the training, James explains that the goal of the social enterprise is ultimately to empower them with the skills and experience needed to move on to something bigger.
“We’re not a destination, we’re a stepping stone. We want our team members to get to the point where they are going to be able to sell themselves to a recruiter and say, ‘yes I have experience’ and ‘yes I can do this’ and ‘yes I am reliable’ - all of those normal conversations that a typical job hunter has but removing some of those barriers that they’ve currently got.”
For those who have seen the program through, the path ahead is indisputably brighter. Naz, a former team member who stayed with Second Shot Espresso for nine months, is now an assistant recruitment officer with the Queensland Police Service and will proudly attest to how the second chance James and Second Shot Espresso afforded to her has not only changed her life, but her partner and her family.
For current team member James (pictured below, far right), 24, working at Second Shot Espresso has helped him to overcome his anxiety and given him the social skills, strategies and confidence he needed to tackle tertiary study again. Before joining the team, James’ autism was affecting his ability to participate in group work and other everyday activities required as part of his uni course.
“It’s a fun and friendly work environment where I have learnt how to make great coffee and improve my customer service skills and it has given me experience for applying for other barista jobs. I’ve gained the confidence to go back to uni and study my Bachelor of Audio and have been given lots of support in finding somewhere else to work while finishing my studies.”
The initiative is testament to the fact that a job, under the right conditions, can be the catalyst to break the cycle of youth homelessness, and has won support from the government and from major organisations such as Hutchinson Builders, Bank of Queensland, and Paul’s Milk. And while they are not branded as such, a well-known (and incredibly delicious) coffee bean supplier acts as a silent partner for Second Shot Espresso, providing coffee beans at a discounted rate.
Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is another proud supporter, awarding them a cash grant through the September 2018 round of the Community Giving Fund. BAC also brought the Second Shot Espresso team out to its Skygate headquarters in December to serve their delicious ‘people juice’ and share their story at one of BAC’s regular ‘Staff Talks’, and will look at other ways it can support the initiative that is making an incredible difference to the lives of disadvantage youths in Brisbane.