Streetsmart returns for Christmas

The campaign to support homeless charities in the UK through restaurant donations is back for the festive season

It is a simple idea, making a real impact in communities across the UK. For two months of the year 500 partner restaurants add £1 to every bill, raising funds for homeless projects.

“We collect all the money and give to projects in the areas of the restaurants. So all the money we raise in Manchester goes to projects in Machester and in London we tend to localise the spend, so the money raised by a group of restaurants in Islington will go to projects in islington,” says Streetsmart director Glenn Pougnet.

Twenty years ago William Sieghart, the founder of Forward Publishing and Mary-Lou Sturridge, a former director of the Goucho Club in London’s Soho, concerned with an increasing homelessness problem decided to try to help. “They asked themselves, ‘what if we could get £1 for every table at Christmas and give to charities?’,” explains Pougnet.

In the first year, 30 restaurants signed up and Streetsmart raised £30,000 – today there are 500 partner restaurants across 22 cities and regions and since 1998 they have raised more than £8.2m. Participating restauranst include Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Angela Hartnett’s Murano, the River Café and the Polpo Group.

Community spirited

Pougnet believes taking part comes naturally to the hospitality sector. “They are people who are community spirited, they are hardworking, they are busy and I think we do it at the right time of year,” he explains. “It is the season of giving and I think homelessness resonates particularly at that time of year.”

To ensure all the funds raised go to the projects, Streetsmart has been working with Deutsche Bank for the past 11 years. The corporate support covers all wages and peripheral costs, meaning that every single Pound raised in the restaurants can help a homelessness project.

Pougnet says the organisation has noticed a change in the demand in recent years as the need is more critical.

“In the first ten years of Streetsmart homelessness decreased, but since 2012 the number of people sleeping rough has increased by 134%. What I see is that there is more of the emergency need now,” he explains. “When we started we were doing the stuff that was really moving people on but now we see more demand for rough sleepers who more immediate help, just getting them into shelters, for example. It is a bit of a circle which is a bit depressing.”

Streetsmart kicks off on 1 November and ends on 31 December.