A foggy day in London started early for those attending the launch of this year’s StreetSmart fundraising campaign at The Botanist in the city. Over the next two months, StreetSmart and over 500 participating restaurants across the UK are asking diners to donate £1 at the end of their meal and in turn have a dramatic impact on the lives of homeless people nearby. Some of the UK’s best restaurateurs are staunch supporters of the project because every single £1 donated to StreetSmart goes to help homeless and vulnerable people.
“We’ve been doing this since the beginning” says Ruth Rodgers of The River Café “The charity has just kept growing and has become a bit of a family tree amongst restaurateurs.” This year new branches to the StreetSmart tree include The Botanist, Tredwells and Craft London.
Restaurants and diners choose to support the campaign because the number of rough sleepers in the UK grows year on year, doubling in the past five years. In London, that figure has increased 77% in the past five years. Also according to Shelter 100,000 children in Th UK face being without a home this Christmas.
Restaurants like Bocca di Lupo, Moro, and Polpo participate every year to help some of the most excluded people in society. They and hundreds more have helped raise £7.4 million since StreetSmart’s inception in 1998. Money generated by the restaurants has a direct impact on projects that are on their doorstep and some restaurant staff have been moved to help out at local StreetSmart projects.
Layo Paskin at The Palomar said: “We are delighted to be taking part in StreetSmart again. It is a fantastic charity and an innovative scheme that allows us all to help a little whilst enjoying ourselves at this time of year.”
StreetSmart is supported by Deutsche Bank as part of its Born to Be youth engagement programme. The Bank is a long-term supporter of StreetSmart, having funded the campaign’s costs for the past ten years, ensuring that every single penny donated goes towards frontline and preventative help.
Paradiso, a StreetSmart restaurant in Newcastle, employed one young man as a waiter after he had spent six years living on the streets. He said: “I was surprised at how many people I met who had had successful jobs and had found themselves homeless. Anybody can become homeless at any time. We need charities like StreetSmart. It is so important to help homeless people and this is the hardest time of year for them. I feel fantastic when I see those StreetSmart cards on tables in restaurants.”
Young people often end up in hostels, squats or sleeping rough as a result of family breakdown and it becomes a huge challenge for them to access education and employment opportunities. StreetSmart funds will be used to support family mediation projects and projects giving the extra help required to train and employ those young people who have slipped through the system.