Leader comment: Village offers hope for the homeless

Leonardo DiCaprio helped raise the profile of Social Bite restaurant Home in Edinburgh this month.

Leonardo DiCaprio helped raise the profile of Social Bite restaurant Home in Edinburgh this month.

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It can be hard keeping up with the social entrepreneur Josh Littlejohn.

The dust has only just settled from the visit of Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio to his latest enterprise to help homeless people in Edinburgh, which literally stopped the traffic in the city’s busy west end a week ago.

As he has proved before when luring the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Bob Geldof and George Clooney to the city, Littlejohn is not one for resting on his laurels.

There are now five sandwich shops and a new restaurant, which DiCaprio famously dined in last week, operating under the banner of Social Bite, the not-for-profit company which helps support homeless people by offering them training and employment.

But Littlejohn today launches his most ambitious project yet in Scotland’s first village for homeless people. Ten purpose-built homes will be created in Granton, providing a roof over the heads of up to 20 homeless people each year.

For Littlejohn, it is an attempt to break the “vicious cycle” homeless people find themselves trapped in when living on the streets.

Efforts to tackle the serious problems of homelessness in Scotland’s cities is nothing new. But like Littlejohn’s previous initiatives with Social Bite, he is doing something innovative and imaginative with his project, which he believes will save Edinburgh City Council around £200,000 a year on temporary accommodation.

While cynics may describe his latest venture as tokenistic or a risky venture which could create a “homeless ghetto”, at the end of the day if Littlejohn succeeds he will create 10 more houses for homeless people than exist at the moment. We would all welcome that.

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