Community News

Brighton business gives helping hand to rough sleepers

Besi Besemar January 27, 2017

When chips are down…Brighton business gives rough sleepers a helping hand as winter draws in

♦ Fledgling Brighton business offers free chips, hot water and warm words of comfort to support those sleeping rough on the streets.

♦ Owners pledge to do more – even offering potential employment to rough sleepers as an avenue back into work.

♦ Local politician praises the work for “making things better for the local community”.

A Brighton business has been praised by a leading city politician for giving rough sleepers a helping hand this winter.

BeFries has been serving its unique mix of Belgian frites and homemade dips from their base at the top of West Street since August.

But, with temperatures plummeting to below freezing in recent weeks, those who run the independent business have been doing their bit for the rough sleeping community.

Staff have been taking out hot chips and offering some warm words to those forced to spend the nights in the streets. They also provide hot water to local charities who distribute tea and other hot drinks to those in need.

Dashal Beevers, who founded the business with his brother Chan, said: “Being an independent business in the heart of the city which is open seven days a week we have seen first hand the growing number of people who are forced to sleep rough on the city’s streets.

“We’ve got to know many of those who regularly spend time on West Street. With overnight temperatures now regularly dropping below freezing, the least we can do is offer some hot food and a five-minute chat.

“Just that small thing you can tell makes all the difference.”

According to government figures released this week, Brighton and Hove has the second highest number of rough sleepers in the country.

A snapshot survey conducted by the government in autumn 2016 recorded 144 people bedding down on the city’s streets, an increase of 85 per cent on 2015. A large number of these rough sleepers are in the West Street area where BeFries is based.

Before opening in August, Dashal and Chan discussed ways in which they could support local charities.

During test fry runs, the pair gave portions of cooked potatoes to the Clock Tower Sanctuary, which supports young homeless people in Brighton and Hove.

Once trading, Dashal wanted to establish a regular link so that some of the unsold produce was gifted to local groups for them to distribute among vulnerable people in the city. But after receiving no positive responses, he took matters into his own hands.

Dashal spoke about the issues with councillor Emma Daniel, chairman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s neighbourhoods, communities and equalities committee, during a visit to the shop this week.

Dashal said: “We would like to extend our reach if we can. It’s hard being a new business to do that as we are limited with time. But we would like to find a charity we can work with who we can provide food to and then they distribute it to those in need.

“Moving forward we would like to extend that by working with an organisation who can help us offer some of those who have fallen on hard times an avenue back into employment by working in our kitchens.”

Cllr Emma Daniel
Cllr Emma Daniel

Cllr Daniel said: “It was fantastic to meet Dash and Chan who are full of ideas not only to improve their business but to make things better for the city as a whole.

“I think the perception is that businesses, especially small businesses, are not interested in social responsibility.

“But BeFries has shown that is not true. They are proving it is possible for even independent start-ups to connect and make a difference in their local community.”

BeFries is open Sunday to Thursday noon to 8pm and Friday and Saturday noon to midnight, and you will find them at 43 West Street, Brighton.