Taking a bite with the local community

5 November 2019 | Scotland 

Two friends have turned a love of coffee into a homeless charity that's breaking boundaries across the globe

When Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson worked together at Josh’s events start-up, neither could have guessed where the journey would take them. But after a trip to India to meet Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, the 2019 Pride of Britain Special Recognition award winners knew that it was time to turn their energies towards a different kind of business – one driven by a cause rather than profit.

In 2012, they founded Social Bite, a sandwich shop in Edinburgh with a business model that ensured they could employ and feed the homeless. Today they have five branches, run a pay-it-forward scheme so customers can buy food and drink on credit for others, and host social suppers for rough sleepers.

Social Bite

But they haven’t stopped at coffee shops. In 2017 they launched Sleep in the Park, an annual fundraising event that funds the Social Bite Housing First programme, aiming to end homelessness in Scotland by 2022. The same year they opened the Social Bite Village in Edinburgh which offers housing to up to 20 people at a time.

The Sleep in the Park initiative has now grown into The Big Sleep Out thanks to backing from Malala Yousafzai’s Malala Fund. This December, the event will take place across 51 international locations, with many more being run by smaller local groups.

Alice invites everyone to come down and join them. “Sign up and take part. There’s one in London, one in Edinburgh, they’re all over. You can host your own, invite all your friends and family.

Social Bite pull quote

They’ve even got some big names involved on the big day. “Dame Helen Mirren’s telling a bedtime story here in Trafalgar Square,” Josh adds. “Will Smith is doing it in Time Square in New York, so it’s happening all over the world.”

And those under 18 can get involved too. “If you’re in Scotland you can take part in the Wee Sleep Out,” Alice explains. “We have David Walliams doing the bedtime story for all the kids with that.”

So, whether it’s in your back garden or an official event, just get involved and join them on the 7 December. You can sign up at bigsleepout.com.

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