Village life helps break the cycle of homelessness - Josh Littlejohn MBE

There is no denying the past year has been a remarkably difficult one, filled with uncertainty and disruption for us all. The inability to have face-to-face contact with our loved ones led to a feeling of isolation with none of us quite sure when things may return to some sort of normality.

The Social Bite village not only provides shelter, but a variety of other great offerings such as yoga classes, bike rides, cooking clubs and a health and wellbeing programme,

For homeless people, the pandemic has meant that the isolation they face on a daily basis has only increased, with disruption to services, facilities and lack of contact with their support systems. With the streets being almost empty for a large portion of the year, there’s been less donations from passers by while the constant fear for their own safety that people living on the streets face still remains.

At Social Bite, we believe it’s important to not only lend a temporary helping hand but to provide a sustainable, ongoing means for getting people back on their feet. One of the main ways in which we can do this is through our Social Bite Village in Granton, Edinburgh.

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The idea behind the Social Bite Village came after we spoke to those who had experience living in temporary accommodation. They told us that homelessness B&B accommodation was comparable to “open prisons” and had the effect of trapping people in a cycle of homelessness. It was here we made it our mission to provide the right support, living environment and opportunities for someone struggling with homelessness to build an independent and happy life.

The Village not only provides the basic human need of shelter, but a variety of other great offerings such as yoga classes, bike rides, cooking clubs and DJ sessions. Staff and volunteers run a health and wellbeing programme, as well as provide a consistent and supportive presence on site. Residents can stay at the villlage for 12-18 months and after this period they are supported into permanent accommodation. So far, the Edinburgh Village project has helped 39 people since it launched in August 2018, with 79% saying the village has helped improve their wellbeing. The village in Granton is a highly supportive, engaging and loving community, which is exactly why we are on a mission to build more.

Our plan is to build two new villages, with target cities of Glasgow and London. To fundraise, we have launched our ‘Break the Cycle’ campaign in partnership with Sir Chris Hoy. There will be a physical event which will take place on Sunday 5th September, where Sir Chris will be joining 1,000 fellow cyclists as they set off on a 60 mile cycle from Glasgow finishing close to the Social Bite Village in Granton, Edinburgh. There will also be a number of people taking part in virtual fundraising events, such as live stream fitness classes and walking challenges, which are open to anyone around the UK with all levels of fitness and ability.

We ultimately hope to raise £1m to build the two new Social Bite villages but this is more than just a charitable initiative, the goal is to provide a new approach to how we, as a society, respond to the issues of homelessness. We’ve seen first hand how our Village model works and provides positive, lasting change in people’s lives and I believe now is the time for us to develop it in other places to help tackle homelessness across the country.

We would absolutely love for you to get involved and help us in our endeavour to end homelessness. To join the race or get inspiration for your own, personal challenge to help build the village and help Break the Cycle, please visit https://www.breakthecycle.co.uk/

Josh Littlejohn MBE is the founder and CEO of Social Bite, a social enterprise that’s dedicated to helping end homelessness in Scotland

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