New video explains the basics of Suspended Coffee

Here is a cute, informative video from the UK that explains the basics of Suspended Coffee. Please share it with your friends, family, and friendly neighborhood coffee shops to help spread the word.

Suspended Coffee from Mummu on Vimeo.

A short viral to help spread the word of the goodwill initiative Suspended Coffee, offering a warm cuppa to those in need.

Please share to help spread the word.

Production Company: Mummu
Director: Karl Hammond
Animation Assistant: Alberta Torres

Music production and sound design: Room-24 Studios
Voice Over: Martin Allanson

New Handout and Sample Letter to Promote Suspended Coffee to Businesses–Thanks Malcolm Grant!

Dear Business Owner

Dear Business Owner, I’d like to introduce a great idea…

A big thank you to Malcolm Grant in Australia (I love how this movement is so international), who has kindly created a beautiful informational Suspended Coffee Handout that Suspended Coffee supporters (or fanatics) can use to introduce the idea to businesses.  The file is in Word so people can print it out and tweak it as they like.  It’s in a tri-fold format to make it smaller and easier to hand out.  It does a really good job of explaining the idea of Suspended Coffee to newbies. Just click on the link above to download the handout, print some out, and start handing them out to businesses.

I have also finished a sample Letter for Businesses that anyone can use. My letter focuses on the business owner’s possible concerns and answers questions that owners may have about offering Suspended Coffees. S.C. supporters can also copy the letter contents and send it in an email to their local businesses. Please don’t spam though.

Lastly, I would also encourage supporters to offer personal assistance to the business, sign the letter and include your personal contact information. That way the business owner knows that this is from an active member of the local community, not some far off company or group.

Suspended Coffee in China and the Philipines

Suspended Coffee is continuing its phenomenal explosion around the globe, now reaching restaurants in China and the Philippines. In Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China a restaurant has started offering “suspended lunches” to patrons.

“Gao Wenlin, partner of Yushang Cultural Kitche, located in High-tech Zone of Xi’an, said the restaurant allows customers to buy a maximum 30 portions of free lunches each day.” Free lunch stirred by ‘suspended’ coffee rage

Apparently, a debate was started on the micro-blogging site, Weibo, that attracted Chinese celebrities and the People’s Daily. Hopefully, this attention leads to more Chinese participation.

It seems there are also a few stores in the Philippines that are offering Suspended Coffee. I couldn’t understand much of what was said in this video, but it’s clear Suspended Coffee has reached Quezon City, Philippines.

New Editable Suspended Coffee Flyers Added and a few Notes on Community

New Flyers!

I’ve updated the Resources for Business page. There is now a Spanish version of the business flyer in addition to the English and German versions. Plus, per request, I’ve added editable versions for all three flyers. Businesses, feel free to take these, change the wording to suit your needs and add any logos and other images to make it work for your particular business. These flyers are my gift to the Suspended Coffee community.

Encouraging other Suspended Coffee supporters to cooperate as a community

The owner of Coffee Sospeso has already encouraged supporters to disavow any financial gain from this movement. I would take this a step farther and encourage people to try to function more as a real community in this effort, even though we come from many areas of the globe. In the internet marketing world–and world in general–it is too easy to take everything as a competition: to build the first website, the best website, get the most Facebook “Likes” and “Shares”, and get the most businesses on board. I doubt any of us have the time and resources to do EVERYTHING this exploding movement needs. We can all add something and cooperate to make it work for the good of all. This includes asking for help when necessary (hint, hint to those who are still trying to get a website up). In my opinion, community is what Suspended Coffee is all about, and that includes giving and receiving help.

On that note, I must cut this short and attend a memorial for a fallen leader in my local community. RIP Kurt Bischoff.

What Makes Suspended Coffee Special?

What makes Suspended Coffee different from other forms of charity

I could tell that there was something special about Suspended Coffee when I first heard of it. However, I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what was special about it until I saw that Australian news story yesterday. In the piece Daniel Strictland of Mission Australia mentioned that Suspended Coffee allows the poor to go inside food establishments and socialize where they could not go previously.

That is the key. It helps end the isolation and invites the poor back into the community.

In a small way, Suspended Coffee opens doors and allows the poor and homeless to be more a part of the community. Yes, community shelters give the homeless a place to sleep. Yes, food banks provide food. Yes, people can bring food, beverages and money to those homeless who beg on the street corners. While shelters and food banks are essential, they still keep the poor and homeless separated from the rest of the community. They are segregated into acceptable areas away from the rest. Worse, usually members of the community will fight to keep shelters away from more prosperous areas, telling the inhabitants, “You are NOT welcome here.”

Food banks and shelters are certainly more efficient in bringing essential goods are services to those that need it. They are essential and I am not advocating ending these forms of charity. However, they do not do well in breaking down the walls that isolate the poor from the rest of the community.

Why Suspended Coffee breaks down barriers and builds community

Not only are the poor being invited to eat with the rest of the community with Suspended Coffee, the people that are doing the inviting are other customers from the community. It is truly a community gesture. It’s not a gift from the government or far-off donors or large corporations looking for a tax break. Suspended Coffee is the community extending a hand to it’s more ostracized and vulnerable members. It says “You are welcome here.”

Suspended Coffee Made the News in Australia

The Suspended Coffee movement is growing fast. There are new Facebook pages added almost daily for different regions around the globe and I can’t even begin to imagine how many shops worldwide have adopted this great idea. If you are looking for a shop in your area, try to find the Facebook page for your area and local stores should be listed. If there isn’t one, you could start one!

I am proud to note that my flyer made it onto the newscast. Yes, that’s my flyer at 30 sec. and 1:24 min. with the Suspended Coffee Supporter logo that someone else contributed. Amazingly, I made that about a week ago, and it is already in a shop thousands of miles away and on the local news. If that’s what happens in a week, I can’t wait to see what happens in a month or a year.

The Horrors of being Homeless and why I had to take a break

It’s been over a decade since being put out onto the street, pregnant and with two kids.  I thought I had pretty much healed from the experience.  Unfortunately, thinking about helping support this movement has reawakened some of the pain and terror of that experience.  I had to take a break and not think about it for a couple days.

Nonetheless, I feel my experience could help a lot of people understand better what it’s like to be homeless.  There’s a lot of misconceptions out there, to put it mildly.

Personally, I had it easier than a lot of people.  I managed to stay in shelters.  I kept an unstable roof over our heads throughout the ordeal.  I got into the charity “system” where I could find out the best places to find help.

But there was the stress–just astronomical levels of stress.  Every moment I felt this knife hanging over my head:  Will I have a place to stay?  Would we be safe? The isolation was extreme.  Traumatic experiences are inherently isolating.  Add to that the fact that it was virtually impossible to make lasting friendships.  Either our new friends would leave (or get kicked out) or we would leave.  Many nights were pockmarked were the sounds of bullets close by.  There was a (claimed to be) former drug leader that I worked with at a food bank to “earn” my $400/mo. TANF money, who described how he cut off the fingers of a woman who had betrayed him–and who kept hitting on me.

Worst of all were the stories of the other women I met and just the incredible amount of suffering I witnessed.  That’s the biggest thing I saw: physical and emotional suffering.  Trauma.  Abuse.  Violence.  Granted I walked primarily among homeless women and families in shelters.  So I didn’t necessarily meet all the homeless.  I did spend a week at Samaritan House in Denver, which also housed single men and women.  I also met many men and women on trips to the local free clinic.  Everyone I saw sat under this black cloud of suffering.

One woman I met had a daughter about the same age as mine.  People would think they were sisters.  This other little girl had witnessed her father being murdered.  Another women had been molested by an uncle during childhood and then severely beaten by a husband later on.  Still another woman had fled a violent relationship with her kids.  When they were sleeping in the park, she told them they were camping.  There are many more.  These just stand out.

This leads to why I think Suspended Coffee will make more of a difference than most people realize.  A kind word and a kind act can make the world of difference in an extreme situation.  There is a lot of physical help, through charities and government programs (though you really need to combine both to just survive), but the experience is so utterly stressful and the people so hurt that a few kind words, along with a small gesture, like a simple cup of coffee, can mean a world of difference.

8 Criticisms of Suspended Coffee

After Suspended Coffee’s initial wave of popularity on the social media, critics have come out of the woodwork to cut down the idea.  Some have been blatantly trolls, some have been hopelessly cynical, and some have made good points.  Here is a summary of some of the criticisms.  None have dampened my belief that this is a good idea.  Here is my personal response to some of these criticisms.

Criticism: “Suspended Coffee” is a marketing scam.

Reply: This started as a response to a Facebook post that went viral just before Easter and featured a picture from the Washington Post of a homeless man named Cal Walker. I knew it was a good idea right away and got this domain and plan to develop this site.  I am committed to not making any money from it.  My personal work is and will remain free for others to use.  Max of Facebook’s Coffee Sospeso (Suspended Coffee) community has publicly requested that people not take advantage of the movement financially.

This isn’t to say that no one will ever try, but at this point most of the people involved appear to be acting in a spirit of goodwill.

Criticism: Homeless people won’t know where to go or how to ask for “Suspended Coffee”

Reply: First, I have helped solve this by offering a flyer that businesses may use to communicate to customers how to give and receive Suspended Coffees.  You may download a copy here or create your own.  Secondly, there are networks that form in the homeless community.  I know that times I have offered a homeless person some food at work, only to find him return the next day along with several buddies, for better or for worse.  That is truly not an issue.

Criticism: Employees or business owners will steal the money.

Reply: That is certainly possible.  However, it is highly unlikely that businesses will risk the scandal of stealing from homeless people.  The amount they could benefit is paltry compared to the risk.  Employees may be tempted to steal them or to donate them to their friends. Again, the risks outweigh the benefits, even if the risk is less to the employee.  The business owners will be motivated to make sure their employees are honest.  My Suspended Coffee certificate would help owners keep track of sales.

Criticism: People who do not need the coffee may take advantage of the program

Reply: This criticism is founded.  While most people do have a conscience and will use Suspended Coffees properly, there are a small percentage of people who are more in need of morals than money.  Furthermore, you can not expect the cashier/barista to be able to make that determination.  Not all homeless people are old drunken men who smell of beer and pee.  If you choose to participate in the Suspended coffee idea, you must accept the risk that there will be times that someone takes advantage of it.

Criticism: No one will want to go to cafe’s that have a bunch of hobos that smell

Reply: That is a stereotype.  There are many women and children that are homeless too, and many homeless people are very creative in finding ways to stay clean. Many poor people, who are not quite homeless, could also use some suspended coffee.

There are some that fit the stereotype and these people can become problematic in other ways.  Sometimes a homeless person who is drunk can become disruptive and harass the other customers.  That is why I added a disclaimer to the door flyer that businesses may refuse service to them, just as they may refuse service to any drunk customer who is disrupting the store.

Criticism: There are better ways to help the poor, like food banks and other charities.

Reply: Of course there are other ways to help, but that doesn’t mean that this is a bad idea or that it will supplant other forms of charity.  It’s a new way to help others. At the very least it is a good way to get people involved in charity who might otherwise not do so. If you support the idea of Suspended Coffee, you may want to consider doing a little more to help others in need: like handing out bus tokens, $5 gift cards, protein or granola bars directly to homeless people; or donating to food banks and other charities.

Plus, sometimes homeless people have barriers to reaching other charities.  Food banks do not always just give out food to anyone who asks.  They usually have a qualification system and limits to the time someone can receive food. For example, our main local food bank in Boulder CO., EFAA, is focused on taking care of families and they require that you prove that you have children, live in the area, and have a low enough income.  EFAA does a lot of great work, but they don’t and can’t help everyone.

Criticism: It will be too difficult to keep track of and require too much work for the cashier/barista.

Reply: The certificate solves a lot of these problems.  It provides a place for keeping track of the items purchased, the amount, the date, a place for a tracking number, and a place to tip the server.  The customer can fill it out, so there’s less work for the employees.  I created the certificate based on my experience working at a food bank, using a food bank, working at a food establishment, and being homeless.

Criticism:  What if there are too many coffees purchased, but not enough takers?

Reply: The simple solution would be for a business to allow only a set number of Suspended Coffees at a time.  Once they reach that limit, they would not take any orders until some of the certificates were used up.

In short, while the idea of Suspended Coffee may not be perfect, it is a good idea and with some tweaking should work in many locations.

Sources include:

…and an assortment of comments on Facebook.

Have a cup of coffee

Every once in a while an idea comes along with the potential to truly make the world a better place.  Suspended coffee is one of those ideas.

First, it’s simple.  You walk into a coffee shop and instead of buying just one cup of coffee, you buy two, or more.  you buy one for yourself and one for someone in need.  The cashier takes your money and uses it to pay for a coffee for someone in need.

Second, it’s direct.  You do not need to worry if your money is going to actually help someone or just to take care of a charity organization and it’s overhead and expenses. You also do not need to worry whether or not your recipient will use your gift to buy alcohol or drugs.  You can directly control which food or beverage you would like to donate.

Third, it’s win-win.  You not only support a person in need, you also support your local business and all it’s employees.  Your money does not go to another state, country or continent.  It stays right in the neighborhood where it was spent.

Lastly, it can be used for more than just coffee.  You could buy a hot bowl of nourishing soup, a filling sandwich, water, fruit, bread, or a full meal.  Suspended coffee’s simplicity makes it easy to duplicate with other food items.