This winter marks the twentieth year for StreetSmart, the initiative that raises money for the homeless every November and December. The brand’s little table cards will be familiar to restaurant-goers across London; the initiative adds a discretionary £1 to the footer of every bill. The River Café, Moro and Ottolenghi are some of the big names to have been on board from the start.
Founded in 1998 by publisher William Sieghart and hotelier/former Groucho director Mary-Lou Sturridge, StreetSmart has raised £8.2 million in its lifetime. Every penny raised is sent directly to local homeless organisations, thanks to admin sponsorship from Deutsche Bank; it seems right also to mention that its PR is done pro bono by Anteater Communications.
Five hundred restaurants in 22 cities or regions across the country will promote StreetSmart this year, at a time when homelessness is becoming a sad reality for more and more people in the UK. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of families becoming homeless went up by 48% to 59,090, with double that number under threat of homelessness. The number of rough sleepers on any given night has increased by 134% to 4,134.
Supporter Ruth Rogers, co-founder of River Café, said: “Homelessness is one of the big issues of our time. We’ve been doing StreetSmart since the beginning. It has just kept growing, and become a bit of a family tree among restaurateurs in London.”