An exhibition showcasing artwork by people who have overcome homelessness has opened at a café in Walthamstow.

Bru Coffee & Gelato in Hoe Street has teamed up with Café Art, a social enterprise aimed at empowering former rough sleepers.

The group works to provide aspiring artists with a platform to sell their work by hanging them in cafes across London.

James Gray, who attended the launch event on Thursday, May 10 spent three years sleeping on the streets in Victoria, London before being placed in temporary accommodation.

After enrolling in an art class run by a homeless charity, Mr Gray is now a self-employed artist, making money by selling both originals and prints of his paintings and drawings.

Cafe Art also employ him to hang paintings for exhibitions across the capital.

Now renting a flat, Mr Gray said it has taken him years to readjust to sleeping indoors.

He said: “Homelessness always leaves a scar, so you really have to find something to motivate you, something you believe in.”

Artists receive 80 per cent of the sale price from each piece of work, while 20 per cent is directed to Café Art.

Mr Gray was joined by Cllr Ahsan Khan, Waltham Forest Council cabinet member for libraries, arts and culture, at last week’s launch event.

Cllr Khan praised the collaboration as an opportunity to promote arts and culture, which he says is sometimes seen as a “middle-class hobby”.

He said the exhibition ties in well with the Borough of Culture award and has the power to “break down barriers and have real long-term economic, social and educational benefits”.

Cllr Khan said: “Homelessness is on the rise and the fact that Café Art is providing a platform for homeless people to showcase their talents is an excellent initiative.

“If by having art displayed in cafes, people can enjoy their cake and latte and also get to see some excellent artwork and have the opportunity to purchase that artwork, then I think that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

“So a lot of credit must go to Café Art and Bru Coffee and Gelato for collaborating on this excellent initiative and I’m really just here as a symbol of support.”

Managing partner of Bru, Najib Seedat and his team are asking customers to vote for their favourite painting and be in with a chance of winning it.

If the piece has already been sold, the winner will receive another painting by the same artist.

Mr Seedat said: “We’re really excited about this.

“Café Art empowers rough sleepers to make something of themselves and reintegrate into society - this very much resonates with Bru’s ethos of bringing real benefit to our community whilst serving arguably the best coffee and most luxurious handmade gelato around.

“It also fits in with our vision to help bring culture to the first Borough of Culture.”