In Conversation with StreetSmart Founder Adam Robinson


Our charity partner, StreetSmart, aims to empower communities by seeking out, supporting and partnering with grassroots organisations to help raise funds and awareness for homeless services. 

Since its launch in August 2019, our SleepSafe initiative has raised money for 7,927 sleep kits and this number is growing every day. Thanks to the tireless efforts of StreetSmart, these kits are being distributed to local community organisations throughout Australia. 

We sat down with StreetSmart Founder Adam Robinson to learn more about the homeless crisis in Australia, and how we can make more of an impact on a local level. 


StreetSmart Founder & CEO, Adam Robinson  


Can you tell us about your journey with StreetSmart? What was the motivation behind starting the organisation? 

I founded StreetSmart in 2003.  I had left a business career in 2001 to work in the not-for-profit sector after feeling increasingly frustrated by the lack of Government policies and action to address the issue of homelessness, social justice and environmental damage. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world yet seem OK with over 100,000 people without a home. That didn’t and doesn’t seem right to me. 

It was while working at a small youth service in Dandenong, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, that I gained first-hand experience of the many challenges and barriers to funding that grassroots organisations face. The aim of founding StreetSmart was to simultaneously break down inaccurate prejudices about homelessness, raise vital funds for important smaller, local organisations and strengthen them through collaboration and connecting them to their community. 

It has always been important to StreetSmart that funds raised are distributed through our Community Grants privileging locality — donations are fed back into projects as close to where they are raised as possible, targeting smaller services aimed at people experiencing homelessness and helping raise awareness about their work locally. StreetSmart still operate at a local, grassroots level to fund critical services.  These smaller organisations are embedded in local communities and often deliver innovative responses to community needs.


What are some of the challenges you face as an organisation?

Like the organisations we help to fund and support our major challenge has always been core funding to enable us to run our campaigns and extend our reach.

Homelessness is often poorly understood, and the mainstream media and the Federal Government contribute to entrenching misconceptions as to who actually experiences homelessness and associate blame with homelessness. This makes fixing the underlying issues and problems more challenging than they need to be. In fact, homelessness is not the failure of the individual but rather a failure of Government.  

We also battle for visibility in a busy world where people have less time and opportunities to connect to a small organisation like ours. The larger charities have large marketing budgets and powerful partnerships which drown out smaller groups.  


Many Australians are unaware of the complexity of homelessness, what are some of the main causes? 

Homelessness is certainly complex and there are many contributing factors to be tackled. A lack of affordable housing for those on a low income, intergenerational poverty, low levels of income/welfare support and domestic violence are all leading contributors to homelessness.   Layer these with a national mental health crisis, institutional sexual and physical abuse, our poor track record of providing services to people leaving; state care, prisons, the armed forces and hospitals, and people living in remote communities, and you have a complex set of contributing circumstances.


 One of the first deliveries of sleep kits to a local community organisation, shortly after SleepSafe's launch.


What’s the best way to respond to homelessness at a local level?

Homelessness is in every community.  It may not be immediately visible as people do not want to be identified as being homeless.  It’s important that local charities are able to respond to people’s crisis as quickly as possible and have knowledge of the community and services.  What we don’t need is for funding to be concentrated in the hands of only a few faith-based, mega-charities.  Smaller groups have an important role to play, fill the gaps left by bigger charities and are more likely to innovate and be able to respond quickly.  However, they are poorly funded and this is the reason StreetSmart exists – to make sure we fund and empower local groups.


Is homelessness in Australia worsening or improving? What are the contributing factors?

 Homelessness is definitely worsening as more people on lower incomes are struggling to find affordable housing. What is most worrying is that we don’t have a national housing and homelessness strategy.  There are structural issues within the economy and society that will see homelessness continue to rise if they are not addressed. For example; the fastest growing cohort of people experiencing homeless are single women over 55.  Without a big increase in public/social housing these women (who have little superannuation) will be unable to access the private rental market and will be homeless. Action needs to be taken on a national level but there is a complete lack of leadership in this area of public policy and many others.


What are some of the ways local communities can get involved? 

I’d suggest people find out more about their local services and what they do. Often, they are crying out for volunteers and support. Helping locally connects you with your neighbours and you can make a real difference.






4 years ago