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‘Poker chips’ used to give hot drinks to homeless people to launch in Co-op stores

The Billy Chip is designed to give reluctant members of the public a way to help people experiencing homelessness

Billy's dad Jon with the chips created in his honour. Image: Supplied

A blue “poker chip” that can be given to homeless people and exchanged for a hot drink will soon be dealt out in over 250 Co-op supermarkets.

Created by the family of Billy Abernethy-Hope, a paramedic who died in 2018, shoppers buy the “Billy Chip” for £2, hand it to anyone in need of help, and they can then exchange it at a participating shop.

The “pay it forward” chip had been trialled at Greggs, and will launch in over 250 Central Co-op branches across the country on March 27 – the fifth anniversary of Billy’s death.

Jon Hope, Billy’s dad, said the chips are a way to encourage otherwise reluctant members of the public to help those on the street, and offer the recipient more freedom and choice than simply being bought a drink.

Ahead of the chip’s supermarket launch, Hope told The Big Issue: “We always envisioned supermarkets redeeming Billy Chip for a meal deal and the team at Co-op Central were right onboard with the concept. They are also helping rough sleepers and homeless people get access to hot drinks through the instore Costa & Insomnia coffee machines which is fantastic. 

“Billy Chip is all about creating compassion, connections and choice for homeless people  and through this partnership we can provide support to people across the midlands. I really hope this will be the catalyst to see more high street outlets sign up to our free scheme.”

Billy Chip
The chips feature a picture of Billy on one side and the word “hope” on the other. Image: Billy Chip

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After Billy’s death in a motorcycle accident in Thailand, his family worked to make his idea – a token to help people like Jon get past fears that cash may be used to fuel an addiction – a reality.

Designed both for the increasingly cashless society, and one where some may have reservations about giving cash to rough sleepers, the chip is not “better” than directly giving, Hope previously told The Big Issue – simply a different option.

When the Co-op partnership launches on March 27, one chip can be exchanged for a hot or cold drink, and two for a full meal deal.

Hannah Gallimore, social change manager at Central Co-op, said: “Billy Chip is such a simple way to spread kindness to those who need it, and we are pleased we can make that possible in our stores. 

“We have seen the great work that Billy Chip is already doing, and we’re always keen to support kind initiatives that make a real difference, especially as times get tougher for everyone.”

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The chip already has participating stores in cities including Bristol, Oxford, Bath, and London, and will soon be launching in Swansea.

Participating shops and cafes sell the chips to customers for £2, with the money going directly to the Billy Chip charity. When somebody comes in and redeems the chip, the shop provides a drink or similar item, and is then reimbursed £1 by the charity for each redeemed chip.

Meg Abernethy-Hope, Billy’s sister and co-founder of Billy Chip, said: “Billy Chip is about giving someone who is sleeping rough compassion, connection, and choice. We are so proud to be partnering with Central Co-op, a business we know is built around supporting its community. This is an incredible partnership and we are beyond excited to see where it will take us in the future.”

The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.

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