Big Lottery grant for Social Bite homeless training academy

Actor George Clooney with Social Bite sandwich shop owner Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson
Actor George Clooney with Social Bite sandwich shop owner Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson

Sandwich chain Social Bite has been awarded £550,000 to significantly increase its social impact working with Scotland’s homeless community.

The social enterprise, which has cafes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, employs and supports homeless people and 100 per cent of its profits go to charity.

The windfall from the Big Lottery Fund is the largest amount of funding it has received since beginning four years ago.

The funding will go towards the running of the Social Bite Academy, set up to support Social Bite’s business model of employing staff from homeless backgrounds and expanding its after-hours evenings to feed the homeless.

The Academy offers a paid four-year course aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing support ranging from social integration, housing help, skills training and work experience, with each student gaining paid employment in the Social Bite sandwich shop chain or with partner commercial businesses.

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair, said: “This life-changing money will help Social Bite support people in Scotland’s three main cities who are facing challenging circumstances. From a simple gesture such as giving a free hot meal through to providing training and volunteering opportunities in a high street business for those who need them most, it’s a truly innovative project which transforms life chances.

“I look forward to seeing Social Bite’s activities grow and expand, thanks to this Lottery money.”

Social Bite co-founder, Josh Littlejohn, added: “The Big Lottery funding is such a boost for our business and the people we help through it. The funding will enable us to significantly expand outreach work from providing a hot meal and some conversation to those in need all the way through to employment.

“At Social Bite we have spent the last four years employing people from backgrounds of homelessness and that’s not been without its challenges. Our academy programme means we can put everything we’ve learned into improving our system and thanks to the Big Lottery we will be able to get even more people off the streets and into employment.”

Social Bite Academy students will be given a programme of training, work experience, and counselling until they have the skills and confidence to find employment.

During the course of the program, Social Bite will be partnering with charities across Scotland, including Shelter Scotland, The Cyrenians, Turning Point and Crisis to provide a support network for its students.

Social Bite was in the spotlight in November last year when Hollywood star George Clooney paid a visit to the Edinburgh Rose Street branch to launch an appeal to help the homeless and fund an aid convoy to refugee camps across Europe.

Staff are also expected to welcome Oscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio later this year.

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