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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Social Bite Village to open in Edinburgh next summer

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One of Scotland's most successful social enterprises is set to open a village to provide accommodation and support to 20 homeless people in Edinburgh

A eco-village for homeless people is to open in Edinburgh thanks to one of Scotland's most successful social enterprises, Social Bite.

The village is being partly funded by proceeds from the Scottish Business Awards, which are run by Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn and which this year saw movie star Leonardo DiCaprio speak.

It will include ten purpose-built houses in Granton, Edinburgh, and provide support for people moving on from homelessness.

In partnership with property development business EDI Group and City of Edinburgh Council, Social Bite plans to produce an innovative, low cost, supervised, safe living environment for up to 20 homeless people for around 12 months each. Work is expected to begin early next year (2017) and the first residents will move in next summer.

Social Bite will work with the council and other homelessness charities to identify suitable residents for the Social Bite Village. The individuals will live in a managed environment where they can learn new skills and get their life back on track. The site will not be open to anyone with serious addiction problems.

The Social Bite Village plan hopes to create a full circle solution to the issue of homelessness, from housing to support to employment

The residents will be people who are currently living in mostly unsupported temporary accommodation, shelters, and B&Bs. Social Bite’s experience has shown that people living in these circumstances need help to break out of the cycle of homelessness.

During the year spent living in the village, residents will work it the company's broader businesses, such as the Social Bite or the recently opened Home restaurant, or in partner organisations. After 12 months, Social Bite will then support residents to move into permanent accommodation. Their space will then be freed up for a new person to move in.

Bruce Mickel, of leading housebuilders Mactaggart and Mickel Ltd will assist by providing expertise on all of the technical aspects of the development and SP Energy Networks staff are volunteering their services for the design and installation of the electrical network.

The units will be completely transportable and should City of Edinburgh Council and EDI wish to develop the land on the Granton site, Social Bite would be able to reuse and relocate to another suitable location in the future.

It currently costs Edinburgh City Council an average of £47 a night to put someone up in a homelessness B&B adding up to £17,155 per person per year. By housing 20 homeless people, the Social Bite Village will save City of Edinburgh Council almost £200,000 a year. £7,500 will be claimed from the Treasury (Department of Work and Pensions) in housing benefit for each resident.

This year's Scottish Business Awards saw £1m raised through ticket sales alone and upto a further £1m through a fundraising auction and high-end raffle that included a £50,000 for a Rolex watch donated by DiCaprio. The proceeds are being split between the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Social Bite and other good causes.

Some of Scotland’s most prominent business leaders are showing further support to the Social Bite Village by taking part in a CEO sleep-out on 15 December in Edinburgh. This will kick-start the campaign to raise £500,000 needed for the project.

Josh Littlejohn said: “The Social Bite Village plan hopes to create a full circle solution to the issue of homelessness, from housing to support to employment. In doing so we hope to alter the course of some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people for the better – swapping a destiny of poverty and exclusion for one of compassionate support and inclusion.

“I’m not for a minute saying that Social Bite alone will eradicate homelessness or anywhere close to that. But we can create a blueprint, working alongside other homelessness charities, we can help end the vicious cycle of homelessness for the individuals that we work with.”

The structures will be based on the highly-insulated modular NestHouse developed by Jonathan Avery and his Linlithgow company Tiny House Scotland. This energy efficient, eco-friendly, sustainable house will contain two bedrooms (some single bedroom options will be available), a shared WC with shower, a lounge area and a small food preparation area. Construction costs for each house is expected to be around £30,000.

Charity partners include Cyrenians and Streetwork. The Cyrenians will assist in the support of the new community, including employability and the growing of food. Streetwork will provide wrap around support focused on people’s complex and multiple needs. Social Bite will also use its own support workers who will be onsite full time to offer support to the residents and be a constant point of contact.

Social Bite started as a sandwich shop on Rose Street in Edinburgh in August 2012 and has now grown to five shops in Scotland, two large staff canteens in Edinburgh, a central production kitchen in Livingston and one of the country’s leading independent corporate catering businesses.

The company employs over 100 people, with a quarter of the staff being from homeless and severely excluded backgrounds.

Cllr Joan Griffiths, vice convenor of City of Edinburgh Council said: “Tackling homelessness remains a priority for the council and we work closely with our third-sector partners to provide services for people who are homeless. Josh and the Social Bite team do so much good work for homeless people across the city already and we look forward to working with them on their plans going forward.”

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