Meet Hayden, the man behind feeding the homeless in Brighton for free

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It is not rare to find people within our city that are willing to go the extra mile to put others first. However, independent cafe owner, Hayden, from The Coffee Counter Brighton, is an exceptional example of the very best of Brighton people.

Despite normally being closed on Monday afternoons, Hayden, out of no reason other than an act of kindness, has decided to open The Coffee Counter every Monday from 1pm-4pm for the homeless. On his only day off a week, Hayden has given up his time for others by offering their full menu of food and hot drinks. Anyone struggling with homelessness can go and enjoy a completely free meal whilst socialising in a safe-space.

Brighton Journal caught up with Hayden to discover more about why he felt so compelled to help:

“Every morning I walk with my 8 year old daughter and our dog through Brighton, often down St. James’ street, and round the back of the Pavilion where there’s a tent for the homeless. My daughter would always ask me about the homeless and why we couldn’t help them.

“I had to explain to her that I’m not a rich man, in any way, shape, or form. The Coffee Counter is all I have through 5 years of extremely hard work. On top of that I’ve had a really, really tough year, and off the back of Brexit, and all this austerity in our society I just feel as if I wish I could give these people everything. But I have absolutely nothing to give them.”

Hayden described walking along the seafront on his own when he lost count of all the homeless people he met along the way. It was then he came to the realisation that although he can’t offer financial help, his small independent platform at The Coffee Counter could allow him to feed every homeless person in Brighton for £300.

The Coffee Counter, 25 Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1RB

Over 2500 people shared the news on social media

Unaware that his desire to help would soon become reality, Hayden discussed his thoughts of needing just £300 with customers:

“The first person I said that to, walked out the door and came back with a cheque for £100. Someone else overheard, handed me their business card and said they’d put £150 towards it.

“As he was paying it, everyone else in the café chipped in what they could to make that final £50, and within an hour I had to realise that I was really going to do this.”

“What is most important to me is to treat homeless people like I would a normal customer”

Despite Hayden’s humbling act of kindness, he has faced opposition online from people who share their disbelief in his idea. Some have even criticised him, claiming it will generate a profit.

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Hayden stressed to Brighton Journal that free food Mondays at the Coffee Counter are “in no way a charity, all money comes from donations and all that money goes directly into supplies for produce.” He made it clear that he is running the project simply so that no homeless person in Brighton goes hungry. The Coffee Counter has raised enough money to keep feeding people until Christmas Eve, and will continue until every penny runs out.

“The most important thing for me is that they receive excellent customer service, and that they have a choice over what they’re eating. I will not let anyone waiting outside go hungry, even if there’s a queue out the door.”

We discussed how so often people who can afford to do so, kindly buy homeless people food. Although this is always beneficial, what this doesn’t offer someone, is a choice.

Hayden wants those who come on Mondays to feel like a normal customer, free from judgement or discrimination. They will be given a food menu, with full access to any hot drink or beverage available from the fridge.

For as long as the money continues coming in, he will continue to run the free food Mondays. After a great success in it’s first week running this week, Hayden expects next Monday (3 December) will be “insane”.

If you would like to support Hayden and his humbling endeavours to help the homeless, you can donate to his crowd funding page here.


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