The idea for the coffee carts was born when a member of the Change Please team spotted a member of the public crossing the street to avoid a Big Issue seller before heading into Starbucks. Now, the simple act of buying a cup of coffee will allow a homeless person to earn a living wage and –- crucially -– will get them off the streets. Change Please hires homeless people and trains them as baristas with the long-term goal of equipping them with the skills and experience required to enter the general workforce. Change Please baristas are paid the London minimum wage, £9.15 per hour.
“This, for me, is like a glimmer of hope,” says Liam Mulligan, a 19-year-old homeless man. “I see this as salvation. It’s a great chance for me to get out of the situation that I’m in. Not only that, I’m doing good. I’m serving people with good service and with a smile. I’m doing good for people and I’m gonna help myself in the long-term.”
After getting kicked out of his home on his 18th birthday, Liam has spent the past year on the streets. As he speaks, he beams from ear to ear; he’s excited about his future.
“It feels fantastic to be earning a living wage. It’s good to do something productive with my time. At the moment it’s definitely making a big impact on my life.”
Homelessness is on the rise throughout the UK, with a record 280,000 people approaching their local authority for homelessness assistance. Rough sleeping — the most extreme form of homelessness — has more than doubled in London in the past five years alone. Though this initiative is a step in the right direction, more support services are still required to rigorously tackle homelessness.
Cemal Ezel, founder of Change Please, said: “There are so many homeless people in London that have a wide variety of skills, and we felt that we could enhance these skills, and help train them as baristas. Coffee is a natural medium to do that, as it’s part of people’s daily routine. If we can give people skills they don’t currently have, and provide them with employment, we can reduce homelessness one coffee at a time.”
Over the next month, Change Please coffee carts are being rolled out across London . Change Please is also hoping to launch in cities across the UK, with the aim to help as many people as possible through the initiative. The hand roasted, artisan coffee will be available to buy nationally across the UK online at changeplease.org.