When I was a teenager, that was always my ambition, was to go and change the world in some way. Once I came across this idea of a social business for a purpose that I felt was, like, what I've always wanted to do – then that really rung a bell with me.
Social Bite is a social enterprise – it's a small chain of sandwich and coffee shops. We employ roughly 1 in 4 of our workforce people from backgrounds of homelessness and we run a 'pay it forward' service, so customers can come in and buy anything on the menu – a post-it note goes on the wall and then homeless people can come in throughout the day and get something for free.
Homelessness isn't the problem of the individual, it's very systemic. What we found when we asked people how they became homeless is that they pretty much all grew up in the care system and more often than not became homeless when they were 16, 17, 18. think if you are born, and dealt those cards, it's quite a cruel world that awaits and we saw how transformative employment was for people that are traditionally completely marginalised from almost any aspect of society as we know it.
The Social Bite Village is a model where we try and use vacant council land, with a really beautiful pre-fabricated house. At any one time we're going to have 20 people who were homeless, living in a really supported community environment – and ultimately we support them into mainstream tenancy beyond that. For me, it's an extremely motivating place to live and work, because I feel like we have a real opportunity here to do something that we can collectively be proud of. All the staff are quite incredible - people that you'd imagine working in a sandwich shop, but they're part selling sandwiches, part social work.
Scotland is a compassionate place – ultimately, we can create a society where nobody has to be homeless here.