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How to help end homelessness? Catch a train and order coffee

by Lin Taylor | @linnytayls | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 17:12 GMT

Travellers walk to a Virgin train at Euston rail station in London August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Neil Hall

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More than 33,000 working families in England do not have a stable place to live

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, Oct 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Want to tackle homelessness while sipping coffee during your morning commute?

You'll get your chance beginning on Wednesday morning when Virgin Trains across Britain will begin selling coffee supplied by Change Please.

The small-scale coffee company is using its profits to help end homelessness, in part by training homeless people to become baristas.

"Not only does our partnership raise public awareness of this issue but ... customers are literally changing lives with the simple gesture of buying a cup of coffee every time they travel," Change Please founder Cemal Ezel said in a statement.

The organisation, which started in 2015 and has 32 locations in London and Manchester, says it pays its workers a minimum wage, helps them open bank accounts and find housing in addition to providing mental health support.

More than 33,000 working families in England do not have a stable place to live, a 73 percent rise from 2013, according to a study by the homeless advocacy group Shelter.

Shelter blames rising private rents, a freeze on benefits and a shortage of social housing for the increase.

Overall, homelessness has risen in England for more than six years, with 80,000 families in temporary accommodations, including more than 120,000 children, government data shows. Change Please has trained more than 80 people and said the partnership with Virgin Trains could lead to about 100 homeless people being trained each year.

Virgin Trains said it will also recruit some trainees to work as onboard baristas.

The train system, which had nearly 38 million passenger journeys in 2017, connects such cities as London, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Change Please is part of a new wave of social enterprises in Britain aiming to make a profit and give something back to communities.

"We are continuing to see a shift in the way corporations view social enterprises, with more seeing them as credible businesses that they want to buy from," Peter Holbrook, head of Social Enterprise UK, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

"Buying from social enterprises is a way ... to embed positive social impact into their supply chains and be part of the solution to some of the world's biggest challenges," he said.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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