Dining At This Supper Club Helps London’s Young Homeless Beat The Benefits Trap

Had Joseph Heller written his famous novel Catch-22 today, he might well have based it on the British benefit system. Take young homeless people, for example. Those living in...

Had Joseph Heller written his famous novel Catch-22 today, he might well have based it on the British benefit system.

Take young homeless people, for example. Those living in temporary accommodation often find themselves in a self-defeating cycle: the only way to gather enough cash to move out is to get a job, but as soon as they start earning their housing benefit gets cut. The consequence? All their wages end up going towards hostel rent and there’s nothing left to save towards a rental deposit. And with affordable housing practically non-existent in London, it’s unsurprising that many young people get stuck in temporary accommodation for 6 years or more.

But while the original Catch-22 novel ends pretty miserably (sorry for the slight spoiler), in our parallel literary universe, there’s an unlikely hero to save the day.

Fat Macy’s is a social enterprise that recruits and trains homeless young Londoners to run supper clubs around the city. But here’s the ingenious twist: rather than taking people on as employees and causing them to fall foul of the benefit trap, Fat Macy’s is set-up as a volunteer training programme. Instead of a salary, it uses the profits earned from the supper clubs to pay into a rent-deposit scheme for the chefs, helping them save for a permanent place to live. With every pop-up event, each young person accumulates credit until they’ve earned enough for a deposit, which gets paid directly to a landlord.

This benefits trap beater is just one small part of the impact made by Fat Macy’s. Chefs who take part in the pop-ups are trained in vital skills for independent living: food hygiene, cooking, financial planning, curating and running events and practical work experience. The trainees themselves also get to flex their creative skills as the inspiration behind the menus – each individual brings new recipes to the table and adds their own flavours to the food they cook.

At present, Fat Macy’s is limited to running supper clubs in other organisations’ venues, but these pop-ups are merely the start of what founder Meg Doherty hopes will be something much bigger. A crowdfunding campaign is currently in progress for a permanent home in Peckham… and we think the plans look pretty exciting. The ambition is to transform an old building into a café, bar and social enterprise hub. During the day, it will serve breakfast and lunch to locals and provide co-working space to social start-ups. At night, the venue will become a restaurant / bar and events space, showcasing some of our city’s finest ethical enterprises, boutiques and pop-ups. According to Fat Macy’s their permanent home will help them support 12 – 15 homeless young people a year to find affordable accommodation and gain employability skills.

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If you want to get behind this great cause, then check out Fat Macy’s Spacehive page and pledge your pounds. At the time of publication, there was just under £45k left to raise… admittedly it’s a big ask, but there are some great rewards to entice you in. And as with most crowdfunding campaigns, if it doesn’t hit the target, you won’t be charged a penny.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on Fat Macy’s website and Grub Club page for upcoming pop-ups. Fans of our Happy List events newsletter will have spotted their middle eastern feasts last week, so make sure you sign-up to our mailing list to stay in the loop on their latest events.

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