A charity plans to create an upmarket coffee shop to rival major operators and to be run by homeless people.
By Catherine Lyst
BBC Scotland news website
Streetwork, based in Edinburgh, aims to train up young rough sleepers and beggars in the hope of getting them off the streets and into jobs.
It is now looking for premises for the venture and is in line for Scottish Executive funding of £272,000.
Director Tam Hendry said the charity had already run two successful pilot projects in the city.
He said the idea was thought up before Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurants were created, but would run along similar lines.
Fifteen was created by the chef to train disadvantaged young people - some of whom were homeless, in care or living with learning difficulties - to work in the restaurant business.
Streetwork's coffee shop will initially be set up by people with experience of running cafes who will then train the homeless recruits. It is hoped about 40 people will be employed.
"Our ultimate aim is to employ homeless, young people, particularly those who are currently begging," he said.
"We plan to create a very upmarket establishment and hope to beat the big companies like Starbucks and Costa.
"Apart from having a main coffee shop we also hope to have satellite units across the city. I would like to have them based at cash points where people beg.
"We will be competing directly with people begging, which they won't like, but we will support them and show them they can make money by selling coffee instead."
Tam said the "Higher Ground" project was the only scheme of its kind, targeting young beggars and people who inject or have serious alcohol problems.
It will receive the executive funding as soon as it secures premises.
Tam added that following the pilot project, in which a coffee stall was set up in Edinburgh's Festival Square, Streetwork outperformed the New Deal figures for Edinburgh and the UK, getting people through training and into employment.
"We twice had a 77% success rate for people staying in a job for more than three months," he said.
"And these are people who are said to be unemployable.
"All other Jobcentre training programmes are for people with drug problems who are already receiving support."
Streetwork was set up 14 years ago and works with Edinburgh's homeless people, beggars and street drinkers.
It is the only homeless charity to provide sleeping bags and instead of trying to force rough sleepers into hostels, its outreach workers sit down with them and try to discover why they are on the streets.
"If we just try to get them into a hostel we are not addressing the reason why they are homeless," Tam said.
Malcolm Chisholm said the project had 'great potential'
"They could be emotionally damaged or have an extreme addiction.
"These young people speak to us with amazing frankness about their lives, hopes and worries. They tell us everything.
"That's when they are ready to learn and listen."
The workers often take the homeless people to hostels for food or help them apply for benefits and register with a GP.
"We just support them," Tam said. "Sometimes its just to chum them while they make a phone call home."
Speaking about the coffee shop plan, Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said: "This is a welcome new venture, based on a successful Streetwork pilot project.
"It has great potential to provide real employment opportunities. It is very important that people who are homeless are given new chances to rebuild their lives. I will watch its development with interest."
Ian Perry, deputy leader of Edinburgh City Council, said: "We have a high regard for the work Streetwork does for homeless people.
"The key to their success is to provide real work experience and real jobs so that homeless people can, crucially, create a stable and constructive lifestyle for themselves."