A new coffee shop will operate a ‘pay-it-forward’ system allowing customers to buy a meal or hot drink for someone experiencing homelessness.
The café is located in Westminster, the area with the highest rate of rough sleeping in England – more than three times as many as Manchester.
It is the sixth launched by homelessness charity Social Bite, and its first site outside of Scotland. The café will employ three people who have experienced homelessness, as well as employing a full-time support worker, who will provide them with practical and emotional support.
“The idea behind [the café] is that it competes in the high street environment with the big competitors, but ultimately, it is a social mission that underpins it”, says Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn.
“It’s not just about giving someone a free lunch or free hot drink: it’s about the psychological element. If you are in a situation of homelessness, you tend to feel quite stigmatised, and quite excluded and marginalised, so just being able to access a high street environment, to join a queue alongside some office workers and be treated as a customer. That’s quite an important psychological element beyond the food.”
Social Bite started life as a sandwich shop in Edinburgh, back in 2012. Since then, the social enterprise has dramatically expanded, becoming a major player in the fight against homelessness in Scotland.