Our ‘Pay it Forward’ Program

Many in the community want to help people experiencing homelessness, but don’t know how to reach out. People experiencing homelessness can feel embarrassed and ashamed to ask for food or basic services. 

Our Connecting the Hunter program, which we also call our ‘Pay it Forward’ program, provides an opportunity for small businesses, corporate organisations and individuals in the community to be active participants in responding to homelessness in the Newcastle and Hunter region.

Our program is an extension of the successful Hunter Homeless Connect Day event and provides a dignified and practical way for businesses in the community to offer goods and services to people experiencing homelessness, all year round. It also provides opportunities for corporate organisations to support these businesses, and to help us raise awareness on the real issues around homelessness, reduce the stigma and break down the barriers.

How Does It Work?

  • Funds are received via our donation point devices installed in local cafes and via our website donation portal. 
  • We purchase food and haircut vouchers from local businesses, using the donated funds by the community and distribute them to crisis support services throughout the region.
  • People experiencing homelessness will receive these vouchers via referral from support services – to be used at these  businesses to help with their immediate needs.

Why Do We Need This?

We can all be just a few pays away from homelessness. Increasingly homelessness is becoming the reality for people who may have been managing well, but are thrown off course by a relationship breakup, job loss, or death of a loved one.

The latest 2016 census, the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) counted 1,750 people experiencing homelessness in the Hunter region. This was an increase of about 12 per cent on the 2011 figure.

The latest statistics reveal that only 7% of people experiencing homelessness have mental health and substance abuse issues and only 6% are sleeping rough. Many (31%) are escaping domestic violence, housing stress (28%), unemployment and financial (22%) and transitioning from custody (12%). A survey conducted by Hunter TAFE students at the 2016 Hunter Homeless Connect Day event revealed that for the first time, women outnumbered men among those seeking assistance.

This project looks at the big picture and connects the dots.

How Can You Help?


Are you a cafe, restaurant, food store or hairdressing service and are you willing to provide services (paid for by the community) to people experiencing homelessness? If so, and you’d like to partner with us, we can set you up as a provider in our voucher system.

Corporate Organisations

Host a donation tap point in your organisation for a month and ‘pay it forward’ to small businesses who are out there providing goods and services to people experiencing homelessness. We can deliver presentations to your staff on the real issues associated with people experiencing homelessness. We aim to raise awareness, reduce the stigma, break down the barriers and encourage staff to be part of the solution and offer real and tangible ways to contribute and invoke community consciousness.


Just want to donate? Head to one of these local cafes –  Slingtown Espresso (formerly Suspension) in Beaumont St, Estabar at Newcastle Beach, Q & Co at Warners Bay or Momo’s Cafe in Hunter Street and donate via our tap point devices when you grab your next coffee, or check out the the donate page on our website here and pay it forward to someone in need.

Connecting the Hunter Stories

Click here to read about how the program is helping vulnerable people in the community.

Member Directory

Click here to see our directory of participating businesses, services and organisations.

Read our Latest Newsletter Here!

If you would like to be involved in our Connecting the Hunter program or would like more information, email us at connecting@hunterhomelessconnect.org.au

This initiative was originally funded by the Community Sector Banking’s 2018 Social Investments Grant Program and more recently, the Sisters of Mercy, Newcastle and Port Waratah Coal Services.