London Coffee Shop Trains Homeless People to Be Baristas


London is littered with thousands of coffee shops. Almost every major street in the British capital hosts a big-name brand, such as Starbucks, Café Nero, or Pret a Manger.

On the smaller streets, you may come across quirkier, independent coffee shops. However, you’ll often spend up to seven pounds (around nine dollars) a pop on a fresh cup of brew.

But, there’s one coffee shop in London that stands out for all the right reasons.

Introducing Change Please, the coffee shop that trains homeless people to be baristas. It may be bold to say that a fabulous cup of coffee can transform your life, but thanks to Change Please, a beverage can change someone else’s for the better.

Let’s learn more about this innovative initiative.

Introducing Change Please

Change Please is a social enterprise project helping the homelessness crisis in London, England. Cemal Ezel established Change Please in 2015, after being motivated and inspired by a Vietnamese tea house. The tea house was successfully run by a lady who was both deaf and mute.

Ezel was tired of walking past homeless people begging for change with a coffee cup. He realized that while homelessness is a critical social issue, the global coffee business values at $80 billion. That’s when Ezel came up with the groundbreaking idea of teaming coffee and homelessness to solve the problem.

The Change Please brand began with one coffee cart set up in Covent Garden. Today, there are locations all over London.

How Does Change Please Help Homeless People?

Since the opening of the first coffee shop, the Change Please brand has made an impressive impact on many people’s lives. Change Please aims to help homeless people by taking them off the streets to train and work as baristas.

Staff members are offered a 40-hour working week with a job that pays the London Living Wage (£10.75, or around $14, per hour.) But Change Please isn’t just a work environment for former rough sleepers.

Change Please staff members are trained to become specialty baristas at a state-of-the-art training academy, hosted by an in-house SCA Certified training team. Following their initial training, employees start their new barista roles at one of the coffee shop locations in London. This is all while being supported by a Mentor Barista.

Change Please also helps staff source accommodation, improve their mental health, and rediscover their sense of community and friendship. This can all be challenging for homeless people to do alone. Staff members are also given help with personal finance and onward employment from Change Please, to help them on the next step of their journey.

At the award-winning enterprise, 100% of the profits of the coffee go towards ending homelessness.

The coffee is pretty great, too. The brews have won various awards, including Great Taste and the Product Excellence Awards, so you don’t have to worry about compromising on your coffee.

In the words of one of Change Please’s staff members Liam: “I feel part of a movement, part of a change in society. Everyone is part of a bigger thing. I am not just someone who makes the coffee, we are Change Please.”

How Can I Support Change Please?

Considering that homelessness continues as a significant issue in London and the rest of the United Kingdom, initiatives like these are essential. And the great news? Supporting Change Please is easy, especially if you’re based in London or are planning to visit the capital.

All you have to do is head to a Change Please coffee shop and grab a delicious coffee to go. Knowing that you’re contributing to helping homeless people, that toasty cup of joe is bound to taste even better.

There are coffee carts and stations set up in various London corners. These spots include Goodge Street, Clapham Common Station, Borough Market, London Bridge, Canary Wharf, Here East, and New Oxford Street. As well as this, Change Please’s coffee blends sell in Sainsbury’s, a well-known supermarket chain in the United Kingdom. These coffee bags even feature the life stories of the people who made them if you fancy getting to know the people behind your brew as you sip it.

While Change Please doesn’t ship their coffee blends outside of the United Kingdom, the enterprise plans to in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

Will Change Please Make It to the United States?

Since the opening of Change Please, the enterprise has gone from strength to strength and shop to shop while serving mouth-watering coffee. Change Please has grown significantly, teaming up with global businesses to make a difference for homeless people. These brands include WeWork, Virgin Atlantic, and David Lloyd.

Change Please has also launched its first Australian location in Perth. Other branches across the globe that are also in the works include spots in Paris and Dublin.

Likewise, while many brands and businesses have struggled during the spread of COVID-19, Change Please is still going strong. Change Please has even gifted the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) staff members with complimentary coffee during the ongoing pandemic.

The enterprise is also looking for sites in San Francisco, and the team has been meeting the mayor in New York regarding building training centers and possible franchises. These are two major cities in the United States where homelessness is also a severe issue.

Superstar rapper has pledged to help Change Please develop connections in Los Angeles. Who knows, perhaps we can look forward to several branches of the brand cropping up in the United States. In Los Angeles, where homelessness has risen in recent years due to issues like housing costs and domestic violence, fresh, creative, and forward-thinking organizations like Change Please could be valuable.

“Homelessness is an absolute crisis,” said David Graham-Cuso, deputy chief of staff for Los Angeles. “Job training programs are an important part of not only helping people out of homelessness but keeping them out. It (Change Please) sounds like a fantastic program and it would be welcomed here in LA.”

Helping the Homelessness Crisis One Coffee at a Time

Since the business’s humble beginnings in London’s Covent Garden, Change Please has sold millions of coffee, opened up dozens of new sites, and partnered with brilliant brands to develop their mission. Many lessons have been learned along the way, but the pursuit of Change Please always remains the same. That is to serve high-quality coffee with 100% of the profits put towards helping homeless people improve their lives.

Ultimately, if you love coffee, and want to help the issues of homelessness, then grabbing your morning fix at Change Please makes a difference. If you visit London, make a detour to Change Please. Get to know the people behind the counter before sipping on a cup of ethically sourced coffee. Who knew that helping homelessness could taste so good?

Ellie Swain

Ellie Swain


Ellie is a freelance writer who grew up in London. She is passionate about ending homelessness and writes for various publications, non-profits, and marketing agencies to produce content. In her spare time, Ellie loves travelling to new places, exploring her city of London, and listening to live music.

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