Founded by Curtin Ignition and commerce graduate Katie Liew, Ground+Co is the first project of Liew’s social enterprise, The Underground Collaborative, which provides employment and housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness.
By purchasing a coffee at Ground+Co’s coffee cart, affectionately named Billie, you can help provide economic and social autonomy for some of Perth’s most marginalised.
“This not only provides them some financial stability, confidence and all the wonderful benefits of employment, but can also reduce the duration of homelessness as our employees become more empowered, gain independence and, most importantly, transition into long-term stable housing to somewhere they can call home.”
You can find Billie and the crew outside the EY Building near Elizabeth Quay Station, but the plan is to expand operations across the CBD.
“Even though they’ve only been with us for two or three months, we’ve seen their confidence levels increase, and have witnessed them becoming a lot more social and competent in learning the trade. They’re also becoming valued members of society again because they haven’t always had the opportunity to be involved.”
Causes of homelessness are far-ranging and complex. The Human Rights Commission cites poverty, family breakdown, shortage of affordable housing, mental illness, sexual assault, addiction and social isolation as factors. Domestic violence is the single leading cause of homelessness in Australia.
“There’s a lack of education by the general public about what homelessness is, and because it can be confronting, people often don’t know how to help,” Liew says.
She also says over exposure to images that objectify people in poverty can cause us to become desensitised to social equality messages or campaigns.
The young entrepreneur has her sights set on establishing coffee operations in other parts of Perth and Western Australia, but also wants to expand into new initiatives, as she realises hospitality is not for everyone.
“We’re thinking about how we can be more innovative in this space. Yes, cafés are good, but we need to do more and think more boldly. It’s not going to be easy, but we need to get those conversations going.”
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