Spending, eating, drinking, partying, gifting – these are all things so many of us do too much of at Christmas. Partly due to our desire to let our hair down, and partly down to in-your-face marketing. As soon as the shops have packed away the plastic skeletons and fireworks, we’re enticed back in. (Novelty felt avocados with Santa hats seem to be the must-have tree decoration this year.)
All too many other people though, don’t have the luxury of having a home to put a tree in. Let alone adorning it with glass flamingos (another trend). Whilst I love avocado and flamingo curiosities, isn’t it time we also thought about our fellow humans who might be struggling? Even more so during the festive season?
If you’re looking for a way to indulge in consumerism a little (or a lot) less this Christmas, then Fat Macy’s have the answer.
The Rise in Homelessness
There’s been a 50% rise in homelessness in England since 2010. We only need to walk around any town or city in the UK, to see the realities of people forced to sleep rough. According to Crisis, almost 5,000 people were sleeping rough on any given night in the Autumn of 2017. This figure only relates to rough sleepers.
Almost 80,000 families are currently in temporary accommodation. Crisis reports that many thousands more are the ‘hidden homeless’. These are the people living in unsafe squats. Or those moving from house to house with all their belongings – so-called ‘sofa surfing’.
The ‘system’ has created a vicious cycle. It’s hard to get a job without an address. It’s even harder to get an address without a job or a decent enough wage to save up for a deposit.
Rents and property prices are rising more than wages, especially so in our capital city. This makes already unstable families and single people even more vulnerable to homelessness. The current benefits system means that housing benefit is cut if you work more than 16 hours a week. This means higher rental costs and little incentive to seek full time work.
The physical and mental impact of all this, is insurmountable.
Fat Macy’s Supper Clubs – an Empowering ‘Hostel to Home’ Solution
But there is a ray of sunshine, in the form of Fat Macy’s. Fat Macy’s is a London-based social enterprise. They train young people living in temporary accommodation to cook for and host supper clubs and other culinary events. Volunteers earn the equivalent of £10 an hour, which is paid by Fat Macy’s into a secure housing deposit fund. Once the value is enough for a deposit and the young person has a tenancy agreement, it’s paid directly to the landlord.
Volunteers are not only helped onto a pathway of independent living. They learn valuable life and work skills such as financial planning and curating events. Plus, they learn how to cook amazing food, on a budget.
Emmanuel – a Real Life, Inspiring Story
So far, 60 young people have been trained in in-hostel catering bootcamps and 20 have volunteered at Fat Macy’s events. 24 have achieved their Level 2 Food Hygiene qualification. This can be used in other, paid, hospitality and catering jobs.
After attending an in-hostel bootcamp two years ago, 27 year old Emmanuel started volunteering. He says,
“Fat Macy’s changed my life and continue to help me. Working with the team has made me confident in my abilities and I’ve learnt a lot. They always believe in me and they’re always there to talk to. I finally feel part of a family”.
Emmanuel now rents his own flat in Enfield in North London. His enchanting grin says it all.
Fat Macy’s aim to to end the cycle of homelessness, and reduce the stigma surrounding it. At the same time, volunteers gain a higher sense of self worth and better future prospects.
Attending a supper club organised by Fat Macy’s means that you’re supporting this brilliant scheme. Plus, any tip that you leave will go straight to the volunteers. Struggling young people deserve this step up in life. And you get to enjoy a shared, social dining experience that you’ll only ever get at a supper club.
Can’t Get to a Fat Macy’s Supper Club?
Fat Macy’s run supper clubs and cater for events all year round. If you’re not in London and want to get involved, you can still help. They have the opportunity to earn £30k of offline advertising as part of the See Change Make Change campaign set up by UnLtd and JCDecaux.
They need to crowdfund the first £15k to be in with a chance. You can support Fat Macy’s crowdfunder and help them on their way to their target.
If successful, the extra advertising money will help raise the profile of their mission. Plus, it will help their new permanent home in Peckham, South East London, thrive.
More Thoughtful Festivities
This Christmas, let’s all think a little more about spending our money on experiences that help people. Let’s not waste money on physical stuff that doesn’t mean anything. If you’re about to go and panic buy a token gift, pause for a second and think. Could your cash be better spent?
A ticket to a Fat Macy’s Christmas supper club is £35 and they’re being held throughout December in two London venues. The menu includes sherry braised chicken and squash stuffed with lentils and walnuts. And of course, sprouts.
Ditch the Secret Santa, gather up your mates and enjoy a festive Fat Macy’s feast. What a way to indulge. It’s money far better spent, anti-consumerist and you’ll change someone’s life for the better. How’s that for seasonal warmth and joy?