Jae Martin’s story today is one of success as a husband, father and owner-operator of a hugely popular cafe specialising in monster shakes and epic burgers.
However, it could have been very different if not for the support of his family about five years ago when Mr Martin basically hit rock bottom.
Raised in Camira, Mr Martin was living in Caloundra with wife Bec when mental health challenges and financial woes mounted.
“It was probably a compounding of poor choices on my behalf and that basically got us to a point where we would have sustained another three or four months without changing things and then we would have ended up (homeless), if we didn’t have my parents’ house to move back to,” he said.
“We had the eviction notices and all that kind of stuff. We just weren’t in a financial position that was able to sustain where we were at.
“While the financial side puts you there, we got to that financial side because of the mental health side of things and I think a lot of that came from not opening up.”
Mr Martin’s participation next month in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout can be traced back to that close encounter with the prospect of homelessness.
“Basically, it’s spending a night on the street to emulate what homeless people would experience on a daily basis,” he said.
“It’s my first one so a lot of it is learning as I go but from what I’ve seen in previous years you pretty much have a cardboard box, so it’s very minimal, out in the conditions of the night.”
It is not the first time Mr Martin has worked to support homeless people.
Vinnies CEO Sleepout at a glance
What it is: Community leaders raise money and sleep without shelter on one of the longest nights of the year to help change the lives of Australians experiencing homelessness.
When it is: June 20 in Brisbane.
Why it matters: Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. St Vincent de Paul uses money raised by the Vinnies CEO Sleepout participants to provide vital food and accommodation for homeless people. St Vincent de Paul also provides education, counselling, employment and health services.
How to support Jae Martin: Make a donation by visiting www.ceosleepout.org.au
In the lead up to Christmas 2014, together with wife Bec, he started a program to donate backpacks filled with sanitary items and other supplies to the homeless.
They filled 50 backpacks in the first year, with the program ballooning to 1,600 backpacks distributed to homeless people in Brisbane and Sydney in 2016.
“Through that program we got to hear a lot of stories. The main one that comes to mind is the guy who ended up homeless through losing his house while his wife was going through chemotherapy,” he said.
“You start to learn that the old cliche thing that most homeless people are alcoholics and that sort of thing is pretty untrue.
“Homelessness is not just living on the street, it could be in a car or someone else’s house or things like that as well.”
The Martins opened Mondaze – a cafe serving monster shakes and epic burgers – in 2016 at Jimboomba, before opening a second store last year at Springfield Central.
Mondaze, which means “the daydream state experienced on a Monday morning”, is as much a product of Mr Martin’s struggles as his drive to help the homeless.
“(The cafe) was actually meant to be a side project. I was still going to keep working for the family business and it was going to be a coffee shop and Bec, my wife, was going to work in the shop,” he said.
“One day we posted a milkshake photo and it added 1000 likes to our page overnight and that’s when we thought, ‘okay, this is going to be a bit more than just a side project’.
“Basically the brand was born out of wanting to make micro-impacts in the community towards mental health and helping lift people’s day in whatever way we could impact them.
“That carries through from the smallest details such as our coffee lids having inspirational quotes on them to the presentation of our product and the big, bright mural on the wall.
“We’ve done over 50,000 shakes now since we’ve opened and I would say 100 per cent of them have been met with a smile when we put them on the table.
“We realised that we are sort of the escape from everyone’s day to day. We’ve become that place where they can come to unwind and let go of their day to day hassles.”
The cafe’s popularity meant they could no longer fit the backpack program into their schedule, with the Vinnies CEO Sleepout providing the perfect way for Mr Martin to continue giving back.
“The beauty of events like the Vinnies CEO Sleepout is a lot of the organising is already done but you can take part and give back,” he said.
“I definitely encourage people to support the Vinnies CEO Sleepout and for other business owners to get involved where they can.”
Mondaze is at 1 Ian Keilar Drive, Springfield Central. Check them out on Facebook here.