Work starts on Social Bite’s homeless village in Edinburgh

Josh Littlejohn outside one of the proposed new homes
Josh Littlejohn outside one of the proposed new homes

The houses for Social Bite’s new village are now under construction with members of Edinburgh’s homeless community expected to be onsite before Christmas this year, Social Bite co-founder, Josh Littlejohn MBE, confirmed today.

The 1.5 acre site which has been given to the sandwich chain on a ‘meanwhile use’ basis is currently being prepared for building works to commence after a fundraising campaign last December which saw 300 of Scotland’s top business and political figures sleep rough to raise money for the project.

Social Bite’s main charity partner on the project is confirmed as Cyrenians who bring to the project nearly 50 years of experience providing support within residential therapeutic community environments and will help with the process of placing the village’s first 20 residents and working on their integration back into society.

Josh Littlejohn said: “We’re so pleased that the Social Bite village will be up and running this year and we’re edging closer and closer to creating what we believe can be an effective alternative to a broken temporary accommodation system for people struggling with homelessness.

“Only seven months ago we experienced an incredible night with some of the country’s most successful and influential people taking part in our CEO Sleep Out to raise the money that would turn this from a nice idea into a reality and make a real impact to people who need our help. Now we’re about to break ground on the site and the first house will be displayed in St Andrews Square throughout August for anyone to come and see.

“The end result will be an inclusive, compassionate community that will provide a vital support network to people who are ready to be helped back into society. The village is only a small part of a much bigger answer required to end homelessness but it could be a blueprint for how social enterprise, charity, council and corporates work together on a solution that makes a difference.”

TinyHouse2Located in Granton, north of Edinburgh, the village will consist of 10 purpose-built two bedroom homes and a communal building for residents to eat together, socialise, work, learn and receive support.

The facility will provide a safe living environment for up to 20 people from a homeless background for around 12 months at a time with residents then beginning their transition back into society.

Residents will be made up of those living in unsupported temporary accommodation, shelters, hostels and B&Bs and they will have a dedicated support team from Social Bite and Cyrenians to help them transition to into permanent accommodation and employment.

Designed by architect Jonathan Avery of Tiny House Scotland, the homes will be based on his innovative, highly insulated ‘NestHouse’ model. The energy efficient, eco-friendly, sustainable homes will each have two loft bedrooms, a shared WC with shower, a lounge with a wood burner, and a small kitchen and dining area.

The homes will be manufactured by Carbon Dynamics, a company specialising in beautiful modular buildings with exceptional levels of insulation. Made using sustainable materials, the homes are cost effective and low energy, and the transportable housing units are ideal should Social Bite need to reuse or relocate to another suitable location in the future.

The first home will be available for the public to view in St Andrews Square for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival before it is placed in the village.

TinyHouse1Ewan Aitken, chief executive of Cyrenians, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Social Bite on their very innovative response to the challenge of homelessness. Our mission is to support people excluded from family, home, work or community on their life journey. Through participation in the Social Bite Village we’ll support residents to build and nurture their relationships, find employment, to manage their money and once they move on, to maintain a tenancy.”

To manage the project, a new company - Social Bite Communities Ltd - has been created as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Social Bite charity. Its board members are Alister Steele (chair) (formerly Castle Rock Edinvar), Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite), Ewan Aitken (CEO Cyrenians), Linda Holden (chair of Streetwork), Daniel Muir (Social Bite), Arlene Cairns and Martin Haughton Brown (Independent Advisor, CEO DePaul).

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