Homelessness charity Social Bite opens ‘life-changing’ Covent Garden café

Edinburgh homelessness charity Social Bite has opened its very first café in England - in the borough with the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

A charity café helping homeless people into work has opened a “life-changing” new venue in central London.

Edinburgh homelessness charity Social Bite has opened its very first coffee shop in England - in the borough with the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

The new venture, on the Strand, Covent Garden, opened its doors on Tuesday, March 15, and will offer employment and free hot drinks and meals to people living rough in the area.

Described as the “epicentre” of UK homelessness by founder Josh Littlejohn, Westminster has the highest rates of rough sleepers in the whole of England.

It has almost six times more than any other London borough, according to data from a survey by the organisation Homeless Link.

Mr Littlejohn MBE said: “We are delighted to be able to launch a new coffee shop in central London. It’s such an incredible milestone for us all here at Social Bite.

“There are many great charities already working in London, but we truly believe that our social impact program is life-changing and provides something unique.

“Having helped the lives of thousands, we are excited to bring this change to the streets of London”.

Social Bite employs one in four staff who are homeless and operates a ‘pay it forward’ scheme where customers can buy a meal or hot drink in advance for someone homeless.

The charity started as a small sandwich shop in Edinburgh and now runs five cafés, as well as training and employment programmes across Scotland.

It has been visited by Hollywood stars Leonardo di Caprio and George Clooney, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge, and the human rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Sir Andrew Cubie CBE, executive chairman, said: “My first involvement with homelessness issues was as chairman of the Shelter Housing Aid Centre in Edinburgh some 50 years ago.

“Fast forward and it remains one of our deepest societal issues; with its core rooted in poverty and trauma.”

He added: “However, the work I have witnessed Social Bite do has provided a renewed hope for positive change in our communities.

“This launch into London marks the continued commitment and passion for positive change and an end to homelessness through pioneering programmes.”

Social Bite is the largest distributor of free fresh food to the homeless in the UK, giving out more than 180,000 food and drink items a year, and over 800,000 during the pandemic.

You can visit the café at 448 The Strand, from 7am to 3pm every Tues to Sat.