Helping the homeless is more important than ever this winter, the director of StreetSmart has said.
Launching its annual fundraising drive, the homelessness charity called on restaurants to sign up to the scheme which has raised more than £10 million in the past 22 years.
The initiative, supported by The Homeless Fund established by The Independent and The Evening Standard, sees restaurants up and down the country add a voluntary £1-per-table donation to every customer bill during November and December.
Glenn Pougnet, StreetSmart’s director, said: "The Independent has a history of raising awareness of homelessness as well as supporting charities through their Homeless Fund.
“It's crucial we work with them now to launch this year’s initiative and raise as much as we possibly can to help those struggling to feed and house themselves in the aftermath of Covid-19"
The coronavirus pandemic is already impacting on homeless figures. CHAIN, a multi-agency database recording information about people sleeping rough and the wider street population in London, found between April and June that nearly two thirds of the 4,227 noted as sleeping rough in the capital were doing so for the first time.
This was a 77 per cent rise over the amount of people introduced to the streets in the same period last year.
The Homeless Fund was established to help tackle homelessness in the capital. It works with the London Homeless Collective, a collation of homelessness charities, many of which will be the recipient of the Streetsmart fundraising initative.
One of those charities is Glass Door, which is the largest provider of open-access winter shelters and homeless support services in the country. This means anyone in need can find shelter and advice, but their services are usually oversubscribed, with people sometimes have to wait weeks before space in a shelter opens up.
Its CEO Lucy Abraham said she hoped restaurants would back the initiative again this year despite the challenges the hospitality sector is facing as a result of the pandemic.
“Last winter, the scheme helped ensure more people found the food and shelter they needed at Glass Door,” she said. “Demand for our services was the highest it's ever been, and StreetSmart helped the charity rise to the challenge.
Lucy adds: "Diners supporting the StreetSmart scheme make a world of difference for people who find themselves at an absolute crisis point with nowhere else to go. We use the funds to provide the hospitality, nutritious food and warm welcome that diners themselves find when they eat out and donate to the scheme. So we think the scheme is a really meaningful way to pay it forward."
All funds raised go to help those in need after LandAid, the property industry charity, agreed to cover all StreetSmart's costs for the annual campaign.
Paul Morrish, Chief Executive of LandAid, said: "We are proud to partner with StreetSmart for the next three years, ensuring that every penny of money raised by diners goes towards projects helping homeless people. Through the LandAid Covid-19 Emergency Fund, LandAid and Streetsmart have helped young people across the country through the pandemic, giving them the funds and support they needed to weather this storm."
If you run a restaurant or work in one and want your establishment to take part, you can join the campaign at streetsmart.org.uk