Customers can buy a meal or a hot drink for a homeless person during their visit
A Scots charity has provided 1,000 free meals to the homeless community *in London since launching its first social enterprise coffee shop in the capital earlier this year.
The coffee shop opened its doors on the Strand – the first outside of Scotland - in March thanks to financial and administrative support from Coutts, as part of the NatWest Group.
Customers in need of their daily caffeine fix have had the chance to 'Pay It Forward' by purchasing a meal or a hot drink for a homeless person during their visit. So far, over £7,000 has been donated by customers through this initiative.
Social Bite works with London charity partners such as The Connection and The Passage to distribute these meals around the City of Westminster in the form of vouchers that can be redeemed in store - providing a lifeline for many who are experiencing homelessness.
The launch of the coffee shop came as a result of a long-term partnership between Coutts’ parent group, NatWest Group, hospitality provider BaxterStorey, and Social Bite. The joint venture, which grew from a drive to repurpose NatWest’s unused office space during lockdown to support the local community, saw the creation of a foodbank distribution centre at its Scotland HQ – which was instrumental in Social Bite’s ability to distribute over 6,000 meals daily to vulnerable families and individuals throughout the pandemic.
The newly opened London site is the latest example of how Social Bite is working with the bank to end homelessness in the UK – support that is needed now more than ever with the increased risk of people experiencing homelessness due to the cost-of-living crisis. The new coffee shop is located in Westminster – an important location with 10% of the country’s homeless population currently sleeping rough in the Westminster area.
The charity has also provided employment and training opportunities for homeless people in London as part of its Jobs First programme. The initiative supports people who have experienced homelessness, with tailored support to hopefully lead to a permanent role with some of the UK’s biggest employers helping to break down the barriers to employment for those who have been homeless. So far, nine individuals have been placed in roles through the programme in London – including two with BaxterStorey at the Social Bite coffee shop on the Strand.
To mark the charity’s milestone of providing 1,000 meals for homeless people in the area, Coutts CEO, Peter Flavel, visited the coffee shop on Friday along with Coutts colleagues. They were joined by Co-Founder and Executive Director of Social Bite, Josh Littlejohn where they learned more about the work Social Bite is doing and the positive impact this is having on the homeless community.
Commenting on the visit, Peter Flavel, CEO of Coutts, said: “At Coutts we are incredibly proud have supported Social Bite in opening their first branch outside of Scotland – especially since it’s just a few doors up from our headquarters.
“We’ve all witnessed the disproportionally high level of homelessness in Westminster first-hand, which Social Bite are taking direct action to help reduce. As an organisation, we pride ourselves on our involvement of the major issues of society and choosing to support this remarkable charity and its efforts to end homelessness sits directly within our core purpose; to help our local communities to thrive.”
Josh Littlejohn, executive director of Social Bite, said: “Launching our first coffee shop outside of Scotland was a huge milestone for us – even more so that it was the result of such a successful and long-term partnership with NatWest Group.
“Since its first day trading back in March, the Strand coffee shop has gone from strength to strength and has enabled our impact work to further grow throughout London; we’re incredibly grateful to the support of Coutts in making this possible.”