Today on World Homeless Day, we urge restaurateurs and diners across London to sign up and donate to StreetSmart, a charitable initiative that raises funds for homeless and vulnerable people across the city.
StreetSmart fundraises for the homeless through the simple idea of adding a voluntary pound to diners’ bills during the festive months of November and December. Since we launched in 1998, we have raised over £8.2 million for London’s most vulnerable with the support of conscientious restaurants across the capital. One hundred percent of the funds raised are redistributed to projects tackling homelessness across the London boroughs and not a penny is taken for administration costs as our partner, Deutsche Bank, covers these.
For supporter and patron Stephen Fry, the concept is simple: ‘StreetSmart’s ambitions are to connect the lucky citizen who can dine out with the unlucky ones for whom dining out means queuing up in front of food banks.’
Homelessness is on the rise and this is set to be an upward trend. Since 2010, statutory homelessness figures have increased by 134%, government statistics from the National Audit Office revealed last month. It is now estimated that 4,134 people slept rough on a single night in England in autumn 2016. These figures do not include the 62% of single homeless people who are hidden and may not show up in official statistics.
The NAO discerned that the ending of private sector tenancies is the biggest single driver of homelessness, swiftly replacing personal factors such as relationship breakdown. The report outlined that since 2010, the cost of private rented accommodation increased three times faster than earnings across England. In London alone, this increase was eightfold, with private rents rising by 24% whilst average earnings only increased by 3%.
‘The housing crisis we’re facing requires both individuals and businesses to support organisations and projects that help to ease the situation,’ said Yianni Papoutsis, chef and co-founder of MEATliquor, who has raised over £138,000 for StreetSmart in the past five years.
Last year over 300 restaurants in London gathered together to raise £450,000 for StreetSmart’s homeless projects. With cuts to Local Housing Allowance and government spending, the support of restaurateurs this year could not be more vital. Already signed up to the 2017 campaign are regulars Gymkhana, Ottolenghi, St. John and OXO Tower, as well as newcomers Aqua Hutong, The Ned, Blixen, Gul & Sepoy, Hoppers and Bonnie Gull in Soho.
Reflecting on her twenty-year involvement with us, Ruth Rogers, owner of The River Kitchen, added: ‘Homelessness is one of the big issues of our time. We’ve been doing StreetSmart since the beginning. It’s just kept growing and become a bit of a family tree amongst restaurateurs in London.’
Some of the charities supported by StreetSmart include Providence Row, Brixton Soup Kitchen, Hospitality Action, Glass Door night shelter and The Margins Project. Pitt Cue Co, who are participating in the campaign this Christmas, are raising money exclusively for Streetwise Opera. The Hippo Inn Pubs are running StreetSmart every Tuesday and The Islington Arms gastropub, who are part of the chain, are doing their part by hiring trainees from The Margins Project’s café training programme for homeless and marginalized people.
You can sign your restaurant up to the StreetSmart 2017 campaign by visiting http://streetsmart.org.uk/about-streetsmart/sign-up/ or by sending a tweet to @StreetSmartUK