Virgin Trains helps 30 people out of homelessness and into work through coffee partnership

A partnership between Virgin Trains and a social enterprise has helped 30 people who have experienced homelessness into work as baristas.

The train operator joined forces with Change Please in October 2018 to offer a premium coffee range onboard, with Change Please’s profits from the partnership going towards reducing homelessness and providing support to those on its programme.

The organisation helps those without a place to live; providing full barista training, paying the London living wage and offering support with housing, bank accounts, applying for jobs and mental wellbeing.

The profit generated from the contract in the last 12 months has supported 52 people with finding housing, finance management, and CV and interview preparation.

Of that figure, 30 people have gone on to be employed as baristas at various organisations with the rest still being provided with support.

Money raised has also gone towards launching Change Please’s new academy in Peckham, London, for training baristas.

One successful apprentice, Kingsley Young, started work earlier this month (November) with Virgin Trains, applying his new skills as a barista in the First Class lounge in Euston. Kingsley was put in touch with Change Please by the homeless charity St Mungo’s.

He said: “Without Change Please, it would not have been possible to get this amazing opportunity and I am absolutely loving what I am doing. I was surprised when it was suggested I could work at Virgin Trains’ First Class Lounge and it’s been a wonderful experience so far.”

Founder of Change Please, Cemal Ezel, said: “We were thrilled Virgin Trains chose Change Please to be their coffee provider, demonstrating their commitment to tackling the growing problem of homelessness. Not only has our partnership raised public awareness of this issue but with 100% of our sale profits going into our training programmes, Virgin Trains customers have literally changed lives with the simple gesture of buying a cup of coffee, every time they travel.”

Julie Harper, Food and Beverage Proposition Manager atVirgin Trains, said: “This has been a great initiative to be involved in and we are very proud to have helped in this way.

“It’s an exciting prospect to see Kingsley starting work with us knowing that he has benefitted from this partnership.”

Photo credit: Virgin Trains / Paul Harmer