Paper Cup Coffee gets to open and plans to give homeless people training to help them land jobs
10 months ago
A new not-for-profit café is opening in Liverpool city centre give homeless people hospitality experience to help get them back into work.
Paper Cup Coffee has been set up by the Paper Cup Project which has been supporting people living on the streets in the city for almost six years.
The new coffee shop, in Queen Square, will provide training in barista and customer service skills to equip them to apply for jobs with local restaurants and bars.
Opening on February 21, it’s been an 18-month project in the making for Paper Cup co-founder Michelle Langan.
She first thought about bringing the concept to Liverpool five years ago after spotting something similar on a trip to London.
“I’d seen there was little coffee shop called Second Shot Coffee, a tiny walk-in takeaway place just by a Tube station, and their aim was to train up people who’d been homeless with barista skills to empower them and get them back into jobs.
“I thought it was such a good idea and that we didn’t have anything like it in Liverpool.
“We were doing our outreach work every week and you get to identify where there’s a gap in the services. The gap that I could see was there was accommodation for people but there wasn’t really anything to bridge that gap to get people working again.
“I thought that was the next step for us, to fill that gap and look at giving people training opportunities which would build their confidence. The idea was in the back of my head for a long time but then it was a question of getting the charity to the point where we were able to do that.”
After securing funding from the Enterprise Development Scheme, Michelle was able to give up her full-time job to focus on setting up the coffee shop.
A former Irish bar next to Tapas Revolution was refitted and she’s been working with the Whitechapel Centre to identify men and women who would benefit most from training from their partner provider The Learning Foundry.
Staff will start training next week, then by the end of March the first trainees will join them.
Training will last for around 11 weeks and Michelle anticipates the café being able to take on up to eight trainees at any one time.
“There is a shortage of workforce in the hospitality sector at the moment so there are genuine job prospects out there,” says Michelle, “and we’ve already had Liverpool restaurants who’ve said they’ll look at taking our trainees on.
“We want to be a gold standard training provider so when people have finished their training with us the restaurants and cafes in town will know that if they take someone on from Paper Cup Coffee they’re going to be really good.
“This will hopefully be a life changing opportunity for people, and it’s not just about getting practical skills, it’s also about confidence and social skills. If you’ve been living on the streets, your confidence can be at rock bottom so that’s a really important part of the training, to build that back up again.”
There are already plans to extend the venue refurbishment to an upper floor, which they intend to open up for businesses to hire for meetings and network events.
And there’ll be a dedicated space in the back room with donated work clothes which people will be able to choose from if they’re going for an interview or starting a new job.
Income from the café will go towards staffing costs and profit will go back to the charity to allow it to continue with its outreach work. A pay it forward scheme will mean people can buy another coffee which can either be collected by a homeless person or given out volunteers are on their regular Monday night rounds.
With a bank of 30 volunteers, Paper Cup Project has come a long way since Michelle helped to set it up, taking out homemade sandwiches and flasks onto the streets.
“Initially just me and one other girl were making the food between us and our family members would help. We had a nana trolley and we’d put sandwiches and a flask in it, and a bit of milk, and we’d go round town speaking to people and seeing if they needed a hot drink and something to eat.
“Now people have joined us from all different backgrounds, they’ve seen us out or on social media and joined up with us, and we’ve had some great support from local businesses. Restaurants like Bacaro and Bouchon have made hot food for us so that’s a real treat when we’re able to give that out, especially because it’s restaurant standard meals.
“We take hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, snacks and we give out clothes as well so we’ve upgraded to garden trollies which we can load up – the nana one has gone now!”
Find out more about Paper Cup Coffee here.
By Dawn Collinson