Friday 8th February 2019
Ten years ago, we launched Pret’s Rising Stars programme. It’s based on a simple idea: if you give someone a job, you can help break the cycle of homelessness, by providing the stability they desperately need.
Ten years on, and it’s proved very effective. Around 75% of candidates graduate after three months. Almost half stay with Pret for more than a year. Over the last decade, over 450 Stars have been through the programme.
On a purely personal note, the people I’ve met from the programme have been an inspiration. It’s a source of huge pride that so many have moved up the ranks to become Managers, Baristas and Team Leaders.
But each year, some stars don’t rise and not everyone graduates. The biggest reason why that happens is a lack of accommodation nearby.
So today, we’ve taken the first step to address this. We are opening what we call “Pret House” – a 13 bedroom annexe in Kennington – for our Rising Stars.
The House is a partnership with West London Mission. Initially it will accommodate 13 Rising Stars who work in Pret shops nearby. We have signed a five-year lease with St Luke’s and spent £200,000 refurbishing the premises. The plan is to expand to 26 bedrooms if it proves successful.
We know from our Rising Stars that saving for a deposit and paying a month’s rent in advance is one of the biggest barriers to finding long-term accommodation. That’s why residents at Pret House will not need to pay a deposit and will pay a realistic rent to the West London Mission.
The House itself is centrally located, clean and comfortable. Everyone gets a good sized, bright room, shared bathroom facilities, a spacious kitchen/dining room and good TV and games rooms. The standard of decoration is high and we have done everything we can to make it feel like a home, not a hostel.
I met the first five residents last week. Some had been sleeping rough for several years, while others had been sharing small, cramped bedrooms in poor condition outside Central London. They all agreed the accommodation was a great deal better than where they were spending the night right now.
Working with the homeless poses challenges and you can’t just rent a house and walk away. We’re lucky to be working with West London Mission who have valuable experience of supporting homeless people. They will make sure that every resident receives the right support in developing financial, literacy and computer skills.
The Pret House is a big step for our Rising Stars programme. I am really hopeful that the idea will catch on and that we can create many more homes to help people turn their lives around.