George Clooney’s fave sandwich shop gets £550k to train homeless

George clooney social bite

George Clooney posed for a selfie with staff during his visit last year

​Social enterprise cafe chain Social Bite has been awarded the cash to further its work training and supporting homeless people

Paul Cardwell's photo

2nd August 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A social enterprise sandwich shop chain which hit the headlines last year when George Clooney popped into its Edinburgh branch has been awarded £550,000 for its new training academy.

Recently launched, the Social Bite Academy sees students undergo a paid four-year course aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness by putting them through a programme of counselling, training, and work experience through employment in a Social Bite sandwich shop chain or with partner commercial businesses. 

The grant from the Big Lottery Fund is the biggest single piece of funding Social Bite, whose business model includes employing a quarter of its staff from homeless backgrounds, has ever received and will also allow it  to expand its after-hours evenings to feed the homeless.

In November 2015 Social Bite raised over £360,000 by selling £5 raffle tickets to win a meal with actor Clooney who was in Scotland for the Scottish Business Awards at the time, which were organised by Social Bite co-founder Josh Littlejohn.

Our academy programme means we can put everything we’ve learned into improving our system and get even more people off the streets

Of the latest piece of fundraising Littlejohn said: “The Big Lottery funding is such a boost for our business and the people we help through it. The funding will enable us to significantly expand outreach work from providing a hot meal and some conversation to those in need all the way through to employment.

"At Social Bite we have spent the last four years employing people from backgrounds of homelessness and that’s not been without its challenges.

“Our academy programme means we can put everything we’ve learned into improving our system and thanks to the Big Lottery we will be able to get even more people off the streets and into employment."

The social enterprise, set up by Littlejohn and Alice Thompson in 2012, already offers training and support to its staff in its five shops throughout Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen but the academy, which will be partnering with charities throughout Scotland including Shelter, The Cyrenians, Turning Point and Crisis to provide a support network for the students, formalises the process.

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair, added: “This life-changing money will help Social Bite support people in Scotland’s three main cities who are facing challenging circumstances.

“From a simple gesture such as giving a free hot meal through to providing training and volunteering opportunities in a high street business for those who need them most, it’s a truly innovative project which transforms life chances.

“I look forward to seeing Social Bite’s activities grow and expand, thanks to this Lottery money.”

This year, Littlejohn is hoping to top George Clooney's visit. Leonardo DiCaprio, best known for his roles in Titanic and Wolf of Wall Street, is understood to have agreed to visit the Rose Street premises when he arrives in Scotland for this year’s business awards.