Sandwich chain Pret a Manger has launched a hostel for people who have been homeless in London, in what it says is a “first for the food industry in the UK.”
The chain’s charitable foundation, the Pret Foundation, will reportedly be investing over £200,000 a year in the hostel, which is being run in partnership with West London Mission (WLM) — which works to empower people affected by homelessness, poverty, and trauma.
The Pret Foundation was established in 1995 “with the singular goal to break the cycle of homelessness,” and it’s funded by the sale of Pret products as well as by customer donations.
According to Pret CEO Clive Schlee, the hostel at WLM St. Luke’s in Lambeth, is the “next evolution in our efforts to help the ex-homeless live their lives independently.”
London was reportedly chosen as the location for the first of Pret’s hostels because the city is home to a third of the country’s rough sleepers, with charities reporting a spike in people sleeping rough.
Between July and September 2018, over 3,100 people were found sleeping rough in London, according to data from the Combined Homelessness and Information Network. It’s a rise of 20% on the previous three months, according to the Guardian, and the first time the total has exceeded 3,000 in a 3-month period.
While at the hostel, residents will be able to access jobs training — including developing financial, literacy, and computer skills — and employment at a Pret store, as well as accommodation.
They’ll also have a bedroom to themselves; a shared bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and TV and games rooms, according to a statement from Pret.
There will initially be room for 13 people, but the aim is to double that by the end of the year — and the intention is to expand to fund more hostels as well.
Each resident will live at the hostel for between six and 12 months, before moving into a privately rented home, according to Pret. By the end of the year, it's hoped the initiative will have supported at least 20 people in getting off the streets.
“For over 30 years, Pret has been supporting homeless people by giving away unsold food to shelters across the country, with over 3 million items donated each year,” said Pret in its statement.
The Pret employment scheme Rising Stars, which is “dedicated to providing career opportunities to the ex-homeless” is actually over 10 years old — and has employed 450 people.
Of these people, 80% have graduated from the programme to become full-time Pret team members, according to Pret, while others have gone on to develop careers outside of Pret. One has become a full-time professional wrestler, for example, while another has become a chef.
The inspiration for the hostel actually came out of the employment scheme, after it emerged that a number of people weren’t able to complete the training because they weren’t able to afford accommodation.
While residents will be paying rent — of £550 a month — a key feature of the hostel is that they won’t have to pay a deposit, which can often require several months’ worth of rent payment in one go and can represent an insurmountable obstacle for people seeking accommodation.
Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler, said: “Everyone deserves a safe and stable home to call their own. And this is not just about putting a roof over their heads — but also about ensuring they have the support they need to recover from life on the streets and get back on their feet.”
“This important scheme will provide vulnerable rough sleepers with the vital assistance they need to secure their own home and rebuild their lives, and I look forward to hearing about its successes over the coming months and years,” she added.