A very well-kept charity secret from within the beverage trade will come into the open next week when Louie Salvoni, head of Espresso Service, reveals a venture that has been going for four years but has, up to now, been known to only to a few people in his industry.
At the public launch of the Shelter From The Storm project, Salvoni will invite members of the catering trade to support his next move on behalf of the homeless.
The Shelter from the Storm project (the name comes from a Bob Dylan song) will show off its work for the first time at an event in Islington on September 16, when it presents plans to extend its work from two nights a week to a full seven-day service.
The venture began after Salvoni was invited to help with a cold weather shelter at two churches in Islington, St James and St Johns.
"I realised I couldn't walk away," he told Coffee House magazine.
The result was the formation of Shelter From The Storm, in a borough which is a contradiction. Islington is known as a highly-fashionable area and yet rates as the eighth most-deprived borough in the UK. What's more, says Salvoni, the official figures of the local homeless may be deliberately under-rated.
"The office of the deputy prime minister is responsible for collating the figures of the homeless, and the official figure for Islington is - two! We sleep dozens a night, and feed dozens more, and that doesn't count the 'rolling homeless', which is a far bigger figure. In addition to that, there is a need for those people who may not be 'officially' homeless, but who are nevertheless destitute… and why should we not break bread with all kinds of needy? So the figure keeps going up and up!
"We began as a lifeline, to give at least one night of respite to those endangered. By the grace of God and community support, we got to a second night. Now the aim is to work on a seven-day basis."
The venture has very few resources.
"In one church, we have a couple of water boilers and a microwave. In the other we have the use of a full kitchen. We use cheap camp beds from Argos - they do a good job, we can dismantle them quickly, and they last a couple of seasons before they fall apart.
"It already costs a lot of money for two nights – not just in cooking, but in things like a lot of bedding to clean, so it’s up to £7,000 to keep each of our one-night shelters open for a year. That means a seven-day shelter is going to be £50,000."
In hoping for support from the trade, Salvoni says that volunteer time is as important as donations of cash or equipment.
"A sustainable charity is one with committed supporters, and what really changes the world is people who will say 'I'll do something about this'.
“It is very important to sit down with our guests and say 'I'll make you a cup of tea', and then talk about the football or anything else. All you need to do this is humanity and a bit of character."
Louie Salvoni is the son of the restaurateur Elena Salvoni, who was once referred to in a Metro story as ‘the grandmother of Soho restaurateurs’.
She worked in the area from the 1950s, and is known for her work at Bianchi's, L'Escargot and L'Etoile. She recently published her second book, Eating Famously, about the celebrity characters she served during her years in the trade. Her first book about the area’s eating houses, A Life in Soho, was published several years ago.
Louie Salvoni’s company Espresso Service was formed to provide a nationwide maintenance service for the vast number of espresso machines which have been placed in the catering trade over recent years. He was previously managing director of Brasilia UK, importing the well-known Italian espresso machines.
Espresso Service/Shelter from the Storm: Tel: 0870 850 2112
By Ian Boughton