Helping the homeless onto their feet one latte at a time: Tarek’s Café H eases the homeless into the world of work
Heaps of papers and a few stacked boxes of crisps fill the warm, somewhat cramped office in which Tarek Samad sits comfortably at his desk. He notions towards the monitor to his left and draws attention to one member of staff who can be seen making a sandwich in the café which adjoins his workspace. He is from Vietnam and had previously been a victim of human trafficking. Tarek speaks with an invested tone as he says that he is now learning English and is proving to be a great asset to the café’s team.
Café H, which Tarek spends his days managing, is the offspring of Cardiff based homeless charity Huggard. The café acts as a stepping stone into employment for the homeless by providing them with work experience.
“There are a lot of barriers in front of homeless people, they can’t get references for employment, they’ve been out of work for so long that they can’t get back into that routine,” Tarek explains. “We have service users here who are willing and planning to make a change to their lives.”
Bloom where you are planted
Tarek was approached to run Café H when it opened five years ago. Before this he worked for the refugee council, helping refugees into employment in the UK.
“Refugees come from very troubled areas around the world and by making them feel safe and comfortable, we try to help wipe all of the negative, fearful thoughts that they came with,” Tarek said.
He continues to reach out to those who need a hand up through his work at Café H. He supports those working in the café while they gain skills, before helping them to find employment and vouching for them as valuable employees.
“What gives me the most satisfaction is that we managed to change some people’s lives, they have jobs now. Even if we don’t get them jobs, we make them feel valuable”
Tarek now calls Wales home and lives in Cwmbran with his wife and two children. “I came from a foreign background myself, and it was very tough when I first came to the country,” he elaborated. “I found people who supported me, and I want to do the same when I see someone in the same position.”
Now more than ever
This year, the Welsh government published data which showed that the homelessness crisis in the country is expanding: the number of households being threatened with homelessness was 14% higher in June 2018 than a year previously.
Tarek said he felt that the issue of homelessness is not being combatted efficiently due to a general lack of understanding.
“The whole of society need to look at it with a very compassionate eye. When you work with the people, you find out a lot of issues that maybe you and I could fall into… you don’t need to be a bad person to fall into it,” he articulated.
Tarek animatedly scribbled a circle on a piece of paper as he explained the vicious cycle of homelessness he has witnessed people become trapped in. He spoke with a clarity which demonstrated a deep-rooted understanding of the issue and a persistent and whole hearted desire to tackle it. “Making them feel there is hope,” he smiled, “simple as that.”