A charity that helps Britain’s homeless at Christmas, StreetSmart is funded by £1 donations that are added to diners’ bills at participating restaurants across the UK during November and December. All funds go directly to helping those in need of shelter, food and warmth over the winter. The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is proud to partner with StreetSmart, adding £1 to the bill of non-resident diners at our restaurants during the festive season. Here, StreetSmart’s Campaign Manager, Jennie Blouet, tells us more about this important cause and how we can all do our bit.
Who set up StreetSmart and what was the idea behind it?
“StreetSmart was set up by businessman William Sieghart and Mary-Lou Sturridge, former managing director of London’s Groucho Club, in 1998 so we’re celebrating our 20th birthday this year. They were having dinner together at the Club and were upset about the number of homeless people they saw outside on the streets of Soho and decided they had to do something about it. So, they came up with the idea of adding £1 to the table bill, originally just at the Groucho Club and two or three other restaurants. StreetSmart really grew from there and now there are almost 600 restaurants involved.”
How has the charity grown since its launch in 1998?
“Streetmart grows year on year. Taking place every place every November and December, we’ve become an ever-expanding family of restaurateurs and the scheme can now be found in various cities across the country, from Cornwall to Glasgow.”
Where do the funds go?
“We focus on supporting charities that help homeless people get back on their feet. This involves everything from emergency shelters which run throughout the winter on every night of the week to food redistribution programmes, day centres, job training programmes, and counselling services.”
What have been some of StreetSmart’s biggest achievements to date?
“We’ve raised £8.8 million pounds in our 20 year history which, when you consider that this is only through £1 donations raised in just two months each year, is quite extraordinary. We’re also fortunate to have sponsorship from Deutsche Bank, which pays all our admin costs. That means every single penny donated goes directly to the people who need it most – quite a rare feat for a charitable organisation.”
Why do you think the concept of dining out and donating £1 per bill has been so successful?
“I think because we do it at Christmas when people are naturally thinking more about giving, they’re more aware of both the cold weather outside and other people that are unable to spend Christmas with their families. There’s also a lot more eating and drinking that goes on at this time of year so the restaurants are busier. Plus, the fact that it’s just a £1 donation per table, not per customer, means it’s a relatively small amount that most people are more than happy to give.”
Alongside donations, what other ways can we help support the homeless at Christmas?
“Volunteering is a great way to help out if you can. UK charities like Crisis run a huge Crisis at Christmas campaign, with shelters set up across London. People can also contribute by donating clothes, unused toiletries etc. We also often get donations of bed linen and towels from hotels that are renewing their supplies.”
The Red Carnation Hotel Collection is proud to support StreetSmart by adding £1 to the bill of non-resident diners at our restaurants.
Image credits: all images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.