Kayla Hanna, barista, Kayla's Specialty Coffee

Coffee breaks down barriers of money, status, class, occupation, everything, it just makes people stop and interact ...

Most 26-year-olds spend their spare time drinking coffee with friends, Kayla Hanna, on the other hand, spends hers making coffees for the Gold Coast’s homeless population. Completely self-funded with a little help from her church, cafes and kind-hearted Gold Coasters, Kayla has grand plans to run regular barista classes for homeless people to equip them with the skills needed to get work. We had a chat with Kayla about coffee, challenges and the best rewards.

You’ve been giving away coffees to homeless people for the past couple of years, how did that come about?
I grew up feeding the homeless on the beach for ten years so I think it always kind of resonated with me. A couple of years ago I started working closely with a lady from my church, she runs Agape Outreach, and she’s been feeding the homeless for the last six years so for the last two I’ve piggybacked and done coffee.

Where did the idea for barista classes for the homeless come from?
While I was making coffees I started teaching some of the young ones a couple of basic things and I just remember their responses, they had this amazing sense of pride, a sense of responsibility. One of the homeless men got a job at Starbucks and I was really encouraged by that. Now I am just looking at ways to make it a regular thing. I am hopefully partnering with a Gold Coast homeless youth project and I am using my coffee contacts to get some local cafes on board and put some of my young people on a trial. Marc from Blackboard Coffee is amazing, he’s opened up his cafe for me to do training in.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt on this journey so far?
I’ve learnt to never underestimate the power of simply listening to someone. Coffee breaks down barriers of money, status, class, occupation, everything, it just makes people stop and interact.

Did you always think you’d end up working with the homeless or was that a bit of a surprise?
I was at university for five years and this is the last thing I pictured myself doing! I studied chaplaincy and I work in a primary school but I started doing events in the community and fell in love. I jumped on Gumtree, bought a machine, stole my dad’s extension lead, bought a trolley from Masters and just started making coffee on the streets. Now we get 60 to 70 people very Tuesday and Wednesday night. It’s our little family.

What inspires you to keep going?
It’s really nice when I see the community that I’ve helped create there, it’s just something I can’t turn off, I love it! When you see ice addicts mingling with business executives over a cup of coffee that I made, there’s so much power in that. We underestimate the power coffee has in bringing people together.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
You never know what to expect. The thing you have to understand about these people is that some of them are broken. Some of them are on drugs and I don’t tell my mum but there are some stabbings sometimes. It’s not always a very nice environment and I have to use my head as a 26-year-old girl on the streets but I am encouraged because we’ve built a family there, I know every one of them by name and those things take time.

What’s the blue-sky dream?
For me it’s all about restoring broken relationships and fostering that connection with people in order to help them on their journey somehow. Being a barista is all about having a skill and using it to have a positive influence on the lives of others.

How can readers lend a hand?
They can follow me on Instagram at Kaylas Specialty Coffee or email me at kscoffees@gmail.com to donate a few dollars, I have an account for beans, spoons, sugar, that kind of thing. I am trying to raise enough money for a table at the moment. They can also support and donate to Agape Outreach. Every little bit helps!


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