On a cold winter day, customers inside New York City's midtown Starbucks are buying coffee, warming up, and chating. But one person was walking through the store, greeting patrons and offering gloves and handwarmers. Thashana Jacobs is an outreach worker for a local organization contracted by the cafe to engage unhoused people who frequent the store looking for a warm place to rest and use the bathroom. Since 2020, the coffee giant has been bringing trained outreach workers into its stores, and the program is currently active in eight US cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle. The program is an example of how private companies may find themselves filling gaps in a systemic social net. It also supports baristas and cafe staff who can often become de facto interfacers with vulnerable populations, often without proper training. Jacobs stops to greet a regular, encouraging him to visit a drop-in shelter downtown, as a storm was expected and temperatures would be dipping. On her rounds, she carries a binder with various resources like one-pagers of soup kitchen locations, as well as warm clothes.

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