It started in 2010 with one humble food cart in Federation Square and 9 troubled youth. It is now a multimillion dollar business and one of Melbourne’s most rapidly growing social enterprises. STREAT’s purpose though is to provide life-skills and supported hospitality training programs to disadvantaged and at-risk youth. These young people are often unseen members of our community, but with STREAT’s help they are striving to belong and gaining a qualification and a chance at a job. Aged 16 to 25, all face huge barriers to inclusion, leave school early and many are destined to be unemployed. STREAT has broken that cycle now for over 900 young people whilst serving over 2 million meals and coffees to its customers. In 2016/17 over 85% of graduates of STREAT’s 17-week main program were still employed or in further training – six-months after graduation.

Today STREAT runs four cafes, a coffee roastery, an artisan bakery and a bustling catering and functions operation. These seven businesses are the locations for the young people’s training and work experience – plus they also generate 70% of the funds required to pay for the training and support programs. STREAT aims to be fully self-funding by 2022, with their amazing new flagship site, Cromwell STREAT, being the main driver of that growth.

Here we speak with Ian Johnson, STREAT’s Marketing Manager of six years and one of the many dedicated members of team STREAT. Ian knows all the ins and outs of the business and how they are striving to reach their goal of helping one young person every meal time – that’s 1095 each year!

Ian, how long have you been involved with STREAT and what does your job role entail?

I started checking STREAT out in late 2011; it was tiny and risky, but I joined in January 2012. My background is mainly science and marketing with large corporates – so it’s just a little different! The role involves media, marketing, corporate relationships, fundraising and selling food, coffee, events, cookbooks and hot cross buns. Best role I’ve ever had and I’m extremely fortunate to be part of STREAT. It’s an incredible organisation.

What inspired you to be part of this wonderful business?

It’s who really – and it’s Rebecca Scott and her partner Kate Barrelle – the two co-founders of STREAT. Bec and I had worked together in marketing and communications for CSIRO (she’s a plant biologist). Bec is now widely regarded as one of the top social entrepreneurs in Australia. Kate is also known nationally as a leader in her field of clinical and forensic psychology. Together, Bec and Kate are an unstoppable force for doing good. And I mean actually doing it!

Step by step what is the process for a youth entering into the program and how are they supported and guided?

Almost all the young people in our programs come referred to us through another social service – like the Salvos, Mission Australia, Frontyard, DHHS, and the Youth Services areas in local and regional councils. Many have a diagnosed mental health issue, or past drug and alcohol issues, or come from juvenile justice or the homelessness system. Most face all of these issues, unemployment and more. There are around 7,000 young people in Melbourne in this situation.

Each young person will have a detailed pre-program interview with our resident psychologist (Kate) to review their lives and very complex needs. Each trainee then has a life-skills and health support program designed around those individual needs.

• Every night in Australia over 116,000 people are homeless.

• 28,000 are aged from 12 to 24.

• The majority of these youth will leave school before Year 10 with no formal education. 57% are destined for long-term unemployment.

• $706,264 is the current cost of a young person remaining homeless across their life.

• Their average life expectancy of a long-term homeless person is 47 years (compared to 82 years).

What programs and courses are set up?

Many of our young people start with one of our introductory programs (Taster, Entrée), often one day per week for a number of weeks. They may do this while we assist them with other issues in readiness to start our Main Course or, after a while, they may be doing well enough to go straight into preparation for employment.

After the initial interview, many go straight into our 17-week Main Course program. Typically, this means all day Tuesday at STREAT doing life-skills in a class of about 12 young people, then all day Wednesday at TAFE (Melbourne Polytechnic) training for a Certificate II in Hospitality, then Thursday, Friday and Mondays are open for work experience shifts in our businesses. All trainees are mentored and tutored by our professional staff.

Tell us a bit about the new Cromwell STREAT location?

In 2013, Geoff Harris, a key STREAT supporter, purchased a $2.5m property, Cromwell Manor, in Collingwood and gifted its use to STREAT for 50 years. Our collective dream was for it to be developed into a flagship site where STREAT could train and support 365 young people each year.

To develop the site, STREAT needed to secure over $3.5m of funding through a combination of philanthropic grants and repayable finance. It had strong success securing funds from a range of sources (Breadsolutions funded the bakery, and a number of key philanthropic foundations provided grant funding, Ian Potter Foundation, TK Foundation, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Fidelity Foundation, Jack & Ethel Goldin Foundation, Greenlight Foundation/Sornem Private Wealth). STREAT won a 2015 Australian Social Enterprise Award for this pioneering deal.

It took us 3 years to raise the $3.5 million. The building was finished in June 2016 and we opened to the public on the 14th of September. This fully licensed 1860’s manor turned 80 seat cafe has a beautiful garden with striped hammocks, deck chairs, outdoor seating, coffee roastery, artisan bakery, meeting spaces and function rooms – and it’s very kid and pet friendly.

STREAT now runs seven interconnected businesses and has won many business awards.

Where is it headed in the future?

We are a third of the way to our 2022 goal of helping 1095 young people each year. Dandenong area is the next third and then out west (Brimbank, Wyndham) is the final third.

Finally, and most importantly, how can we help and get involved?

We’d love you to have a meal or coffee in one of our cafes. Across your lifetime you’ll have 80,000 meals – so why not share some with us? In doing so you’ll help provide training and support for a young person. That’s conscious consumption.

You could also use our catering, for a lunch or event at your workplace or hold your Christmas party, birthday party or wedding at STREAT! Order our christmas puddings, hampers or a cookbook –  they make the ideal corporate and personal gifts.

It costs STREAT $5500 to put a young person through our 17-week life-skills, work experience and hospitality training program. Over 80% graduate and go on to their first job or further education, so we’d love your support.

Find SREAT at 66 Cromwell Street, Collingwood.
Monday to Friday, 7.30am – 4pm,
Weekends, 8am – 4pm.