Tag Archives: Homelessness

Social Bite (from the Herald)



WHO would have thought a sandwich shop would feed the dreams of two homeless men?

Sonny Murray and Billy McCondochie grew up in Glasgow in shattered homes and crawled their way through care homes, prison and homeless units. Their existence was dominated by drink, drugs and violence. But in their mid-30s they both realised it was time to break the spiral.

That is where Social Bite, set up by Josh Littlejohn and his partner and co-founder Alice Thompson, comes in. The sandwich shop chain, with two shops in Edinburgh and now in Glasgow’s St Vincent Street, not only turns profits over to charities, but its recruitment policy guarantees one in four staff are from the ranks of the homeless.

Mr Murray said the Social Bite had turned his life around. “I was turning up at the Social Bite at the end of the day because they give out unsold sandwiches free,” he said. “I loved the idea of the business, how it cares for people and so I asked Alice for a job.

“Clearly I represented a risk, because I was homeless and on a drug detox programme, but she gave me a chance. And because I landed a full-time job I was able to get accommodation.

“My life has changed, thankfully, and thank God because I’ve got a girlfriend with a baby girl on the way in May. It means we can have life together under one roof.”

Mr Murray, who was taken into care as a youngster, ‘fell in with the wrong crowd’, took to drugs, which led to shoplifting to feed the habit, which led to prison, and the loss of his council house. While sleeping rough last year he determined to turn his life around. He has been drug-free for several months.

“The Social Bite took a chance on me,” he said. “Now, I want to progress with them. I love it.”

He added, smiling: “And if my cheesecake is anything to go by, I will be successful.”

Mr McCondachie was taken into care at the age of 13. But his life truly darkened when aged 16 he was slashed twice on the face in a random attack. He became fearful, he turned to alcohol and drugs found himself in prison for a long series of ‘silly’ offences.

“The scarring changed me,” he said. “I lost the plot. And I ended up spending my life sleeping on friends’ couches. But then I heard about the Social Bite from Street Soccer.”

The social inclusion football programme is run by former Rangers player Ally Dawson.

“Street Soccer encouraged me to go for a job with the new Social Bite in Glasgow,” says Mr McCondachie.

“I did, and it’s been fantastic for me. I work as a chef, having learned to cook in prison.”

Surveying the new Glasgow shop, he added; “What’s also great for your self-esteem is I’ve actually been given the keys to open the shop. For the first time in my life I’m being trusted.”

He added: “What I do want is people in the same situation to know there is hope. And the Social Bite has given me that.”



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March 28, 2014 · 00:42

Pope Francis invites 200 homeless people to dine at Vatican

lIrish Central

July 10, 2013,
The Vatican - Pope Francis invites 200 homeless people to dine at Vatican
Photo by Google Images
Pope Francis invited a group of 200 homeless people to dinner at the Vatican last week, where they enjoyed a lavish meal and entertainment.

The dinner was organized by Circle of Saint Peter, a papal charity as “a concrete sign of the Pope’s charity.”

L’Osservatore Romano reports that Cardinal Bertello, president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State spent the evening with the guests.

“I welcome you in the name of the Pope. As you know, this is your home, and he is pleased that you are here,” he told the group before dinner was served.

The meal took place near the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican. The Vatican Gendarmes Band performed for the guests as they dined. CNA reports that chefs from Naples prepared the meals and members of the Circle of St. Peter, joined by their wives and children, acted as servers for the meal.

Once the dinner was complete, each guest was given a gift pack with pastries, fresh fruit, and a rosary.

During an address in March Pope Francis decried a society that is more concerned about economic prosperity than homeless people dying of starvation and cold.

“This is happening today. If investments in banks fall, it is a tragedy and people say ‘what are we going to do?’ But if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that’s nothing. This is our crisis today,” the Pope said.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

More “Suspended Coffees” stories

Each Wednesday, barber Anthony Cymerys sets up his chair in the shade of an oak tree in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. For longtime clients, the homeless or those just down on their luck, the fee is always the same: a hug for a haircut.

The 82-year-old Cymerys, who is known as Joe the Barber, began offering his services 25 years ago after retiring from a career in business. He had cut hair for his family but decided to put his clippers to work for the less fortunate after being inspired by a church sermon about the homeless.

He wanted the homeless not to look homeless.

His clients line up on park benches, some of them also turning out for free meals provided on Wednesdays by a local church. One by one they take a seat in a folding lawn chair above a car battery Cymerys uses to power his clippers.

As he finished a trim on one customer recently, a loud squeal came from the battery. He gathered the mobile shop, connected the clippers to his car and picked up where he left off.

“It really is love. I love these guys,” Cymerys said. He paused and turned to his client in the chair, “You know I love you, right?”

“That’s what it’s all about,” Cymerys said

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May 15, 2013 · 15:23