New initiative to help Edinburgh’s homeless


A NEW bid to tackle homelessness in Edinburgh could see busnesses encouraged to give beggars a job in order to get them off the streets.

The initiative, which is being proposed just weeks after a call for all beggars to be banned from the city centre, is being backed by business umbrella group Essential Edinburgh.

As part of the new scheme, companies in the city would be encouraged to give beggars a job, to help get them off the street, and into employment.

This comes after similar schemes run by Morrisons and the Edinburgh based sandwich shop, Social Bite, have received great success.

With an estimated 30 beggars on the streets of central Edinburgh it is hoped that if enough companies back the initiative, all could potentially move into employment.

Sandwich shop owner Josh Littlejohn, who employs former Big Issue sellers, has now joined forces with Essential Edinburgh to draw up a plan which could see the capital become a world leader in tackling homelessness.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh said plans are still in their early stages but is confident the new scheme would help both companies and the cities homeless.

He said: “These talks are in the very early stages and We have to wait to see what happens next month. However, Contingent on us getting a ‘yes’ vote we would be very keen to work with Josh.

“I would hope finding 30 willing and suitable companies would not be beyond the realms of ?possibility.”

Under the new plan companies within Essential Edinburgh’s Business Improvement District would be encouraged to give a homeless person the chance to secure a job, and although they have announced that they will employ a homeless person on their street team Mr Littlejohn thinks there are a lot more opportunities that they can offer.

He said the scheme’s success depended on Essential Edinburghs being re-elected by local businesses: “Should they be successful, Andy has agreed to employ a homeless person on the Essential Edinburgh street team.

“However, given that Essential Edinburgh has about 600 businesses on its books, we felt that there was potentially more we could do.”

The plans have received support from local homelessness charities.

Claire Gibson, chief executive of Streetwork, says although the charity support the new scheme, they would urge people to consider other factors affecting homeless people in the city.

She said: “Any project of this kind absolutely has our vote. However, there are other issues factoring into homelessness other than employment and we would hope that we could all work together to address these in a meaningful way.”

Social Bite, a sandwich shop on Rose Street, is already working towards helping Edinburgh’s homeless.

Peter Hart, 22, a former Big Issue seller in the city, was hired by Mr Littlejohn after he began to do odd jobs for the shop in return for food.

Originally hired as a food porter, has now ,moved up to food preparation, and has been joined by his older brother, Joe, who was also homeless.

Mr Hart had great faith in the project, and believes it could help many that were in situations similar to his.

He said: “The best way to get me off the street was to give me a job. It’s made such a massive difference to every aspect of my life.

“I’m a much happier and more confident person now.

“I can’t stress enough how grateful I am to Josh and to Alice Thompson, the manager of the shop, because I wouldn’t be here without them.

“The world really would be a better place if there were more people like them – no-one ever gave me a chance before they came along.”