A Sandwich Chain in the UK Opened a Home for the Homeless

The mission of the company is to break the cycle of homelessness


(Alena Veasey / Shutterstock.com)

Pret A Manger looks like any conventional London sandwich shop. It features freshly prepared sandwiches and salads, breakfasts and organic coffee. But it is not your usual restaurant, Pret A Manger is a food shop with a mission.

The company has been donating unsold food daily to the homeless since the first shop opened in 1986. It started small with just a handful of sandwiches but has grown to over three million meals across the UK every year.

Pret A Manger also has a Rising Star Program, now in its tenth year,  that is dedicated to providing jobs for the formerly homeless. The program takes on 40 rising stars every year and so far has helped 462 people and has an 80 percent success rate since it began. This project is managed by The Pret Foundation, an internationally registered charity that was founded in 1995 to help the homeless and is funded by the sale of the shop's products and private donations.

“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, " said CEO Clive Schlee.

Homeless.org says that the British Ministry of Housing and Local Government estimates that the number of homeless people in England is 4,751 people, but the figure could be as high as 8,000. This is a huge 73 percent increase in the last three years.

Now Pret is doing even more for the homeless. The foundation has partnered with the West London Mission (WLM) to open a new home for the homeless. The Pret House at WLM St. Luke's is located in London where over one-third of the UK's homeless live.

The home can take up to 13 people at a time who will live there for 6-12 months before moving into a privately rented home. The program provides more than just a place to live, and the participants will also receive employment through Rising Stars at nearby Pret shops and expert advice to help them transition into life off the streets.

Each resident will pay an affordable rate dependent on what they earn and will learn necessary life skills like opening a bank account, literacy, and computer skills.

“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,” said Schlee.

“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," said Heather Wheeler MP and minister for homeless and housing.

She said that this project would provide vital assistance to the homeless so that they can secure homes and rebuild their lives.

The Pret foundation also supports over 60 charities across the UK in locations where there are Pret sandwich shops. There are now over 450 Prets in the UK, US, Paris, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. So lunch guilt free knowing that your purchases are helping people remake their lives for better.

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