6 March 2020

Josephine, 45, moved to London from Ghana when she was younger but seven years ago, after violence at home, she ended up in a women’s refuge and at risk of sleeping on the streets. 

Having previously worked in odd jobs, mostly as a cleaner, she found she could not return to her earlier employment and was “in a very bad situation”. It was then that the manager of UK Pret Foundation, the charitable arm of the cafe chain, offered Josephine the chance of an interview for a role in-store. 

Within two weeks, Josephine started training as an apprentice at a Pret branch. Today, she is working to become an assistant store manager. 

Since its launch last February in Kennington, Josephine has also been one of about 10 people living in Pret House at WLM St Luke's, which offers both accommodation and paid work to homeless people. 

It is run in conjunction with West London Mission (WLM) — one of the charities that makes up the Homeless Collective supported by the Standard’s Homeless Fund campaign. It offers its “rising stars” a safe, comfortable place to live for six to 12 months before helping them move into private rented property. 

Residents receive all-round support — including counselling and guidance from professionals — and Josephine is on hand as “the mum of the house”. 

In an interview to mark the first anniversary of the project, Josephine said: “What I see is that about 80 per cent of the things that people have gone through, I’ve been through it. So I try to encourage them [the other residents] to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Helping other people is a way of healing myself as well, that’s how I see it... I am going through a lot of issues at the moment, but Pret has been very supportive. I don’t know how to thank the company. It’s not just the shop that you see ... they are helping a lot of people.” 

Juanita Cracchiolo, UK Pret Foundation manager, who initially offered Josephine a job, said that although housing was a new venture “it feels like a community, like a home, which is exactly what we wanted”.

Roger Clark, chief executive of West London Mission (WLM), said: “Through this partnership, Pret has really set the standard in creating such a beautiful physical environment. It’s very much a hand-up rather than a handout.

Source: Evening Standard