The Housing Resources Starbucks Offers Its Communities

Aside from being a go-to stop for a shot of morning caffeine, everyone in U.S. cities also knows that Starbucks is the place to stop if you are out and about and urgently need to use the bathroom or get on Wifi. While most commuters or shoppers will only fall back on this plan in desperate circumstances, and may use the stop as an excuse to grab a quick drink, for people experiencing homelessness, the coffee giant's free Wi-Fi and open-door bathroom policy, which The Guardian notes the company started in 2018, can be life savers.

While CNN notes that Starbucks has recently expressed uncertainty about its ability to maintain its entirely open bathroom policy due to safety concerns for employees and customers, the brand has taken other charitable steps in recent years to offer assistance to the unhoused people who frequent the cafes to warm up or use the stores' facilities. According to Starbucks, the company started the Starbucks Outreach Worker Program in 2020 to help connect those in need with social workers and organizations providing services.

Connecting people with resources

As The Guardian details, social service and non-profit organizations in eight cities have privately contracted with Starbucks through the Outreach Worker Program to help provide service for the unhoused individuals who frequent the chain's cafes. Workers regularly visit the highly impacted stores in the pilot cities and get to know the individuals who frequent them, offering them resources, information about their services, and even essentials like warm gloves and socks. The social workers also work alongside the baristas in the stores on their routes, providing them with training about how to handle certain situations with people with mental or behavioral health issues and making themselves available by phone if someone comes in who they realize needs help.

Starbucks is currently running the program in 125 stores in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. and has already connected 23,000 people with resources, with 4,000 unhoused people enrolling in "stabilizing services" as a direct result of the Starbucks Outreach. The Guardian notes that employees in other markets have expressed interest in the program as they believe it would be beneficial to both the unhoused customers as well as employees who are not trained social workers. Starbucks has not announced plans to expand the program but is working with Arizona State University to help develop new strategies to scale it and has held meetings with local officials in partner cities to discuss housing solutions.