Two former rough sleepers are joining the workforce after a catering company took them on to cook for other homeless people.
The pair will work for the Ethicurean Guild after boss Edd Heller approached Brighton and Hove City Council’s outreach service, run by homeless charity St Mungo’s.
Mr Heller came up with the idea of taking them on after running a kitchen to feed hundreds of rough sleepers and homeless people housed by the council during the coronavirus crisis.
His team cooks for the council’s severe weather emergency protocol (SWEP) shelter and was approached to start cooking for homeless people during the lockdown by Garry Morrill, of Pay It Forward.
After four months of cooking for the homeless, Mr Heller, who also runs pub kitchens in Brighton and Hove, approached St Mungo’s.
He said: “We touched base with the guys at St Mungo’s and said, ‘we’ve got these kitchens and opportunities can you find us some suitable people.’
“They’re putting in place the Housing First programme which helps people on the next step of the journey.”
Housing First is a policy aimed at offering homeless people somewhere to live, without conditions, such as attending treatment programmes, then giving them the support they need to rebuild their lives.
Mr Heller said: “If they’ve got people going into properties, let’s get them in.”
The two new workers will start work in the kitchen, based at the Brighton Centre, where hot meals are currently produced for the rehoused homeless.
Mr Heller hopes to train more people as pizza chefs to set up a delivery business called Dough, to raise money to help feed rough sleepers.
The job offers were described as a success story by Labour councillor Gill Williams, who chaired Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee until last week when the Green took charge.
She said that getting people off the street and supporting other homeless people such as sofa surfers and people in hostels involved “great work from a lot of people”.
Councillor Williams said: “We have an emergency but also a great opportunity because so many of the homeless people we would not have been able to speak to or engage with.
“For the entrenched rough sleepers, this was the chance to engage in a significant way.
“They had shelter and deliveries of food and access to medical teams for the first time, getting medical help.
“A significant number of people have now said, ‘I feel clean. I’m putting weight on. I don’t want to go back.’
“It’s a shame it took a crisis to do that.”
Fewer than five rough sleepers left housing provided by the council during the coronavirus lockdown to return to the streets, Councillor Williams said.
When reports of tents pitched in parks and around the town came to outreach workers’ attention, the vast majority turned out to be holidaymakers.
Currently, more homeless people are moving to Brighton and Hove from other areas which have closed down their accommodation, according to Councillor Williams.
Green councillor Alex Phillips, who speaks for the new administration on homelessness, has also welcomed the opportunity being given to the former rough sleepers.
She took up her role last Thursday (23 July) having joined the Housing Committee in May after her year as mayor.
Councillor Phillips said: “I am delighted to hear of the job offers to two former rough sleepers.
“Supporting people who have faced rough sleeping back into employment is a vital part of how our communities can work together to offer people the support they need to prevent a return to sleeping on the streets.
“I wish them all the very best and, more than this, we are keen to encourage other employers to engage with the council on opportunities to support some of the most vulnerable.”
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