The Sparrow's Nest has just a handful of regulars who claim the suspended coffees.
The Sparrow's Nest has just a handful of regulars who claim the suspended coffees.

Almost six months on from the introduction of 'suspended' coffees in Perth, cafe owners are struggling to get the word out to those in need.

Many among them have tried contacting homeless support agencies to pass on the message, but say apart from a few regulars who come in each day, the coffees sit unclaimed.

"It's easier to let people know to purchase them than claim them," said The Sparrow's Nest owner Lara Wolinski.

suspended coffee
The charitable concept of buying a suspended coffee has hit a few snags in Perth. Photo: Michelle Soia

"People on the street don't have Facebook, they don't watch the news."

The charitable concept, which kicked off in Perth earlier this year, offers customers the opportunity to buy, or suspend, a coffee that the cafe will later give to someone who can't afford to buy their own.

Ms Wolinski said the number of suspended coffees the cafe had was increasing and they currently had 80 coffees waiting to be claimed.

The suspended coffee count at Mugshots Espresso Bar went skyhigh earlier in the year.
The suspended coffee count at Mugshots Espresso Bar went skyhigh earlier in the year.

"We have a stockpile," she said.

"We have a few regular people who come in and come in most days and that's awesome, but we definitely have more purchased than claimed."

Ms Wolinski said her East Victoria Park business had also introduced suspended food and while it was outranked by coffees, she still had seven sandwiches available.

"Talking to most people, they kind of had the thought that coffee wasn't enough or wasn't suitable," she said.

"And if I was living on the streets or couldn't afford to eat, I think that would be better."

Despite having just four regulars who come in to claim the suspended purchases, Ms Wolinski said she still believes it's worthwhile.

"One experience was really touching and little heartbreaking," she said.

"My partner was crying by the end of it.

"A guy who quite obviously was homeless came up to our door, didn't want to come inside, was nervous.

"He stood out the front and bowed his head, he was ashamed and said he was hungry.

"My partner immediately said 'Can we give him a sandwich, a coffee?'

"We have gave him a sandwich, a coffee and cake, because he was so hungry.

"He sat out the front. We talked to him about Bob Marley and we put it on the stereo - he was so happy.

"I've been in the position to need to sell stuff to pay bills so it's nice to be able to give something back."

She said they had sought help in donating food, but had hit a brick wall.

"We've contacted a few places and they say they can't take sandwiches [but] they can take full loaves of bread - that was a little strange," she said.

"I've put signage out the front but that's not really helping.

"On the back wall I've got a little picture that says 'Ask us about suspended coffees'."

Woogi Espresso owner Frank Grabbi is experiencing the same problem across his two CBD cafes.

Mr Grabbi said he had five regulars who came in each day but still had about 50 coffees available because people don't know about the offer or are too embarrassed to ask for a handout.

"People have been too proud [to ask for a coffee]," he said.

"It's an awkward conversation."

He attempted to rectify the issue by introducing a transaction system for the coffees – when someone buys a suspended coffee they are given a lid on which to write a friendly message and put in a bowl on the counter.

When someone wants to claim a coffee, they take a lid and 'pay' for the coffee with the lid.

"It's better than someone coming in and having to ask," Mr Grabbi said.

"Then people donating also know where it's going, they're not just buying coffee for thin air."

Mr Grabbi hopes support agencies will spread the word to people who come in to ask for help.

"I'm aligning with Big Issue and [St.] Bartholomew's House," he said.

"Then there's a face behind the donation.

"When I'm speaking to agencies they don't know it exists still... and you get stuck at reception.

"We asked some if we could send out a flier but they said they don't align themselves with anyone.

"I'd like to have a bit more obvious for people."

He said he had also struggled to give away leftover food, mainly due to insurance reasons.

"I had to take it to the YMCA and [travel wise] it's an hour turnaround.

"I hang around to give [the food] away and then leave the leftovers but then you see it getting thrown out."

The "Perth Suspended Coffee Community" Facebook page has amassed almost 500 likes since its creation in March.

While its administrators say these issues are uniform among participating cafes, they've met with St Vincent de Paul and Portcare and are hopeful they can help turn things around.

"I gave [the charities] a list of the cafes in the area and encouraged them to get in touch and make sure they got to people who could use them," Carol Shearman said.

"One was clueless... they were just gobsmacked that people would do this.

"The other one was very pleased to hear it was up and running and hoping to make a difference.

"They'll let know when they go in for help when they're in need.

"It's going to take a little bit more legwork to get the system going."