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Pret Foundation opens London house for the homeless today

The Pret Foundation, which was set up by Pret A Manger’s founders in 1995, has today officially opened a new home for homeless people, in partnership with West London Mission (WLM).

For over 30 years, Pret has been supporting homeless people by giving away unsold food to shelters across the country, with over 3 million items donated each year. Last year marked the 10-year anniversary of the Rising Stars programme (Rising Star, Zoe pictured), dedicated to providing career opportunities to the ex-homeless.

These initiatives are managed by the Pret Foundation, an internationally registered charity set up with the singular goal to break the cycle of homelessness.

The Pret House at WLM St. Luke’s takes this one step further through a unique partnership that provides accommodation, employment and access to expert advice to help homeless people transition into the private rented market.

The Pret House at WLM St. Luke’s is located in London, where almost a third of the UK’s rough sleepers live. It will accommodate up to 13 people at a time, who will live there for 6-12 months before moving into a privately rented home. The ambition is to help at least 20 ex-homeless people off the streets by the end of the year, through this initiative.

WLM is a charity empowering people affected by homelessness, poverty and trauma to make positive changes in their lives. It will focus on financial resilience, providing accommodation and support, with residents paying rent monthly at an affordable rate relative to their wages. Each resident will have their own private room and will receive advice from WLM on how to get a bank account, save for a deposit, as well as develop wider literacy and computer skills. They will also join the Rising Stars programme, working in Pret shops nearby.

Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Heather Wheeler MP said, “Everyone deserves a safe and stable home to call their own. And this is not just about putting a roof over their heads – but also about ensuring they have the support they need to recover from life on the streets and get back on their feet.

“This important scheme will provide vulnerable rough sleepers with the vital assistance they need to secure their own home and rebuild their lives, and I look forward to hearing about its successes over the coming months and years.”

Clive Schlee, CEO of Pret, commented, “Ever since Pret opened its first shop in London, helping the homeless has been part of our promise to our customers and the communities in which we operate. We set up the Pret Foundation with the singular purpose of breaking the cycle of homelessness, and to do that, we believe that people need three things: food, employment and shelter.

“The opening of the Pret House at WLM St Luke’s is the next evolution in our efforts to help the ex-homeless live their lives independently. It’s been a five-year project in the making, and we’re hoping it will have a meaningful impact on our Rising Stars and the wider community.”

Roger Clark, WLM’s interim CEO, said, “The values and services of WLM are built on the foundation of continual transformation for those we serve since 1887. We are committed to delivering excellence, as we strive to empower others to lead fulfilling lives. We do this through a commitment to transparency, based on the worth of every person whatever challenge they face.

“Launching the Pret House at WLM St Luke’s is an exciting new partnership between WLM and the Pret Foundation with our shared vision of ending homelessness. We really believe in the positive difference it will make for individuals and the community.”

Pret has been donating unsold food to the homeless since it opened its first shop in 1986. What started out as just a handful of sandwiches has now grown to over 3 million meals across the UK every year.

The Pret Foundation has supported 462 Rising Stars over the past 10 years. Almost 80% of Rising Stars graduate from the programme to become full-time Pret Team Members, while others have gone on to build fantastic careers beyond Pret – for example, one has become a full-time professional wrestler and another a chef.

The Pret Foundation supports over 60 charities up and down the UK in the communities local to Pret shops. As well as donating money, the Pret Foundation provides everything from showers and sleeping bags to food shopping and chefs.