Smiley Movement logo

A pay-it-forward cafe run by homeless people

Words by Smiley Team

A decade ago a young homeless man walked into an Edinburgh cafe asking for work. Cafe owners Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson were so struck by the encounter they decided to start an initiative to support homeless people, launching several Social Bite cafes dedicated to this cause.

After creating three sites across Scotland, the charity has opened its first coffee shop in London today, on Tuesday. Passersby will be able to buy themselves food or drink while paying for additional food or drink on a pay-it-forward basis for homeless visitors.

Meanwhile, one in four of the staff members will come from a homeless background, employed full-time in an effort to help them rebuild their lives.

Announcing the opening, Josh said: “It’s such an incredible milestone for us all here at Social Bite.”

“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.”

[Dip into more uplifting news stories about incredible people doing even more incredible work]

The new cafe sits at London’s touristic centre, alongside the Strand. The surrounding borough of Westminster has the highest level of homelessness in England and almost six times more rough sleepers than other boroughs.

Already Social Bite has had an impressive impact. It became the largest distributor of free fresh food to people sleeping rough in the UK, handing out more than 180,000 items of food and hot drinks each year. During the pandemic, they redoubled their efforts, distributing over 800,000 food packages.

Sir Andrew Cubie CBE, Executive Chair of Social Bite has supported homeless people for decades. Fifty years ago he worked as Chair of the Shelter Housing Aid Centre in Edinburgh. Since then he said he has seen little improvement in homelessness, which he explained is rooted in poverty and trauma. 

On a more optimistic note, he said: “However, the work I have witnessed Social Bite do, previously from a distance and more recently at close proximity, has provided a renewed hope for positive change in our communities.”

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: To buy a homeless person access food or drink, visit one of Social Bite’s shops.

DONATE: To support the charity wherever you are, helping them to employ homeless people and distribute free food and drinks, donate to Social Bite.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…