Homeless Christmas dinner appeal a big success

Josh Littlejohn with the Social Bite team who will be feeding 400 homeless people on Christmas Day. Picture: comp

Josh Littlejohn with the Social Bite team who will be feeding 400 homeless people on Christmas Day. Picture: comp

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AN appeal to buy Christmas meals for Edinburgh’s homeless population has proved such a hit that it will keep them fed all year.

The Social Bite cafe had set a target of raising enough money to serve 400 meals at its Rose Street premises on Christmas Day – and another 400 in Glasgow on Christmas Eve, each at £5 a time.

But instead of selling 800 vouchers via the daily deals website Itison.com, the cafe has now sold nearly 20,000 – worth £100,000.

Now organisers plan to use the extra cash to give free food to the homeless throughout the year.

Josh Littlejohn, co-founder of the social enterprise cafe, said they would go ahead with their plans to cater for 400 people on Christmas Day between noon and 4pm with a full Christmas dinner and all the trimmings.

“We don’t know how many will turn up, but we’re advertising in all the shelters and giving leaflets to beggars,” he said.

And he said local businesses were donating hats, gloves, scarves and duvets. It’s going to be a massive Christmas bonanza,” he said.

“And all the excess cash is going to be put into a pot to feed homeless people throughout the year.” He said the cafe ran a system of “suspended” food and coffee which allowed customers to pre-pay for specific items which homeless people could then come in and choose for free.

“The trouble is at the moment the ‘suspended’ jar sometimes runs dry and when homeless people come in we have to say we have nothing for them. This will keep them full to the brim. It will probably feed the homeless people for a year.”

Mr Littlejohn, 28, who lives in Stockbridge, said he had been overwhelmed by the response to the appeal.

“I can’t get through my e-mail inbox because it keeps replenishing with people wanting to donate gifts. It’s amazing.” He said the cafe was well supported all year round.

“We have lots of loyal customers who really buy into the fact we are helping people and will walk past other shops to come to us – partly because they like our food, but also because of what we do.

“So we see daily that people are ultimately good and if you are helping people on the bottom rung they want to help too.”

And he said the festive season just made people want to do more to help others. “Christmas is such an emotional time for people, it brings out a special spirit,” he said.

“So the thought of people 
not having a roof over their heads captures people’s imagination.”

Social Bite was set up in 2012 by Josh and Alice Thompson after they were inspired by Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Professor Muhammad Yunus and the social businesses he had created in Dhaka.

As well as Rose Street, it has another branch in Shandwick Place. And last month the cafe was chosen to cater for former First Minister Alex Salmond’s leaving do.

The Social Bite appeal continues to run on daily deal site Itison.com until Monday.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com