Social Bite was begun by Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn in 2012 as a Sandwich Shop in Rose Street, but not just any sandwich shop, Josh and Alice decided to operate as a Social Business giving away all profits to good causes. In the space of just six years, Social Bite has gone on to employ 70 people and operate a chain of five social enterprise sandwich shops across Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen as well as a food catering and delivery service called “Social Bite Delivers”.
Positioned in a central location like Rose Street we saw homeless people every day. It seemed only natural to offer free food and hot drinks, and then one guy asked for a job. We thought: “why not?” and things took off from there.
Soon we were employing several people who had been homeless and it was through the shared experience of working together that we became aware of the complexity of issues facing people on our streets and the vulnerable situations in which they find themselves. We knew we had to do more to help.
Today our Social Bite Academy enables the employment of people affected by homelessness (32 in 2018) and also supports homeless people to volunteer (45 in 2018).
We distribute more than 140,000 items of healthy free food via our cafes each year and our weekly Social Supper events connect 400 vulnerable people every week with food, support and opportunities. We also have a restaurant, Vesta Restaurant & Bar, formerly called ‘Home’ which opened in 2016 and which provides weekly sit down meals for 40 people experiencing homelessness and food poverty, as well as training opportunities for our supported employees.
We were shocked at the extent of homelessness and the barriers it creates to living a normal life, so in 2015 we set up the Social Bite Fund with the mission to end homelessness in Scotland.
We obtained a solid factual base for our cause by commissioning Heriot-Watt University to set out a framework for eradicating core homelessness in Scotland’s four largest cities, and we launched a major fund-raising and awareness campaign which began with the CEO Sleep Out in Charlotte Square in 2016.
The following year, 2017 we ran Sleep in the Park in which 8,000 people slept out in Princes Street Gardens, raising £4 million, and in December last year, 2018, we extended Sleep in the Park to include Dundee, Glasgow and Aberdeen as well. 10,000 people took part, raising a further £3.65 million.
As a result of the first Sleep in the Park, we were able to launch our Social Bite Village in May 2018 and we have also invested a significant proportion of the funds in our Housing First project.
We are grateful to all the people who have supported and continue to support us, adding their voice and passion to the movement to end homelessness in Scotland.