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Housing

This London restaurant is helping people save for a rent deposit

Fat Macy’s has been helping people out of homelessness since 2016. The social enterprise’s new restaurant, Ebury, uses food as “a vehicle for change”

A new restaurant is on a mission to offer locally-sourced, contemporary Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. But that’s not its only goal – it’s helping disadvantaged people out of homelessness too.

Ebury, the south London restaurant opened by catering company and social enterprise Fat Macy’s, is helping trainees earn a deposit to move out of temporary housing such as hostels and into a permanent rented home. Professional chefs train those recruited onto the 200-hour programme, with valuable work experience in front-of-house rules and behind the scenes of the business too.

“Our approach has the potential to be expanded nationwide,” said founder Meg Doherty, who devised the plan in 2016 after when working with the North London YMCA. She saw firsthand how people become trapped in the benefits system. A person’s financial support is reduced when they start working, but if their wage is too little to replace the benefit payments they have lost, they are often pushed out of work and back towards welfare.

“For customers to do something good, all they need to do is to eat a meal. It’s that simple.”

The Fat Macy’s team provides up to two years’ support to people training on the programme and transitioning to independent living. Collectively, trainees have gained around 3,600 hours’ work experience so far, with £35,000 earned in housing deposits among 33 people.

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The scheme started life as a supper club before evolving into a successful catering business, with Coutts, L’Oréal and UBS among its clients. The Ebury restaurant in Pimlico opened at the start of August. 

“We now have a place to call home for the Fat Macy’s family, where we can work one-to-one with trainees and every service adds to their training hours,” Doherty added.

Nathalie Moukarzel, business director for Fat Macy’s, led the vision behind the Middle Eastern-inspired menu which draws from the Lebanese dishes she grew up with. The food is “unfussy but exciting,” she said, and is designed to ensure trainees are left with a bank of recipes they can continue to cook as they move into their own homes.

The restaurant was made possible by £55,000 in donations raised by the social enterprise, then used to set up a charity arm of the organisation, Fat Macy’s Foundation. The team has now set up 11 training academies for people experiencing homelessness across three hostels, since joined by more than 100 people looking for a route out of temporary accommodation and into a secure home.

Sign The Big Issue’s petition to #StopMassHomelessness

The organisation now has the chance to open a second restaurant, in Shoreditch, and is crowdfunding to make it happen.

Challenging perceptions of homelessness is a priority for the restaurant and wider social enterprise behind it, Doherty added. “We’re using food as a vehicle for change”.

Ebury is open 9.30am to 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 9.30am to 5.30pm on Sundays. For more information and to book a table, visit the restaurant’s website.

Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of losing their homes right now. One UK household is made homeless every three-and-a-half hours.

You can help stop a potential avalanche of homelessness by joining The Big Issue’s Stop Mass Homelessness campaign. Here’s how:

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