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In the middle of Tottenham Court Road stands a symbol for London. A subway station; A Leslie Green classic presented in ox-blood terracotta bricks. Goodge Street Station. But look closer. There is a table and two chairs outside and a small window in the facade. Through this window runs a heartwarming social enterprise project, Change Please.
According to TfL, around 25,000 people enter or leave Goodge Street on weekdays. We're ready to bet that many of them will not flash twice on Change Please. With just a few square meters, it shows how much space is scarce in London today. A commuter breaks the line and goes to the counter to order a coffee. One minute later, another one follows. And again. Seems a lot of people do know about this place.
"Now I'm happy, I work full time"
Marco Ocampo serves with a smile. He knows all the regulars on Goodge Street. The subway workers in their bright red tabards. The guy at the fruit and vegetable stand in front of the station. And everyone else dropping by at Change Please.
People like Marco are at the heart of Change Please, a small chain of (often mobile) cafes across London founded by The Big Issue and Comic Relief. The company engages, trains and supports members of the London homeless community to tackle the homeless crisis in the capital.
Not so long ago Marco was homeless. His story is reminiscent of many others reported today - triggered by the separation from his partner. He had moved from Colombia to London years ago, but had suddenly been cut off from the system and was nowhere to be found for a few months. He went into depression.
Marco heard about Ace of Clubs near Clapham Common - a charity that supports the homeless community - and attended mainly at a place where a warm lunch was served. He was introduced to the team of Change Please. They offered to train him to be a barista, gave him a weekly 40-hour job paying the London Living Wage, and helped him find accommodation. They also gave him support to address the downturn in his sanity. Marco beamed: "Now I am happy, I work full time".
"London needs more companies like this"
While I drink my latte - skilfully made by Marco - in the blazing sun, he praises Change Please. "I think London needs more companies like this," he tells me. Something must definitely be done. Since 2010, homelessness has doubled in the UK, and Marco is still very much aware of the community. Every day he gives the local homeless free hot drinks.
Marco quickly climbed through the ranks at Change Please. He now trains other baristas, just at the beginning of the journey he was less than a year ago. He is so sympathetic that it is easy to see that he is well suited for such a role. The coffee he trains her for is Change Please & # 39; s own mix, which is sold in stores across the country. The packaging depicts former homeless baristas now used by the brand. Again, their stories are written, and part of the sales goes back to the baristas.
As I sip the rest of my coffee, I wonder what makes Change Please so special for Marco. "It's a family!" he exclaims.
Change Please has locations at Goodge Street Station, Clapham Common Station, Borough Market, Canary Wharf, Here East, London Bridge and New Oxford Street. You can buy Change Please coffee from national chains like Sainsbury's.
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