Ultimate in luxury meets ultimate in social responsibility

A new kind of luxury private members’ club aims to help homeless people get qualified and find work

19 August 2013

Luxury and social responsibility are two concepts not often used in the same sentence, never mind in the same business model. But a new venture by homeless charity, The House of St Barnabas, is combining both to create a private members’ club in central London that will help homeless people back into work.

A spectacular Grade I-listed building on Greek Street, in London’s Soho, gifted to the charity in 1862, will become the home of a not-for-profit luxury private members’ club when it re-opens its doors in September.

St Barnabas operated as a residential hotel from 1846 until 2005 and is now a dual-purpose private members’ club. But the high-end dining and business club will come with a twist: a number of the serving staff are homeless, being trained in hospitality and employability in the top floors of the building, and benefiting from the on-site work experience provided by the club downstairs.

After completing a 12-week programme, each learner will receive two City & Guilds Level 1 qualifications and be helped into employment by the charity and its partnership base of employers.

‘There was originally trepidation about how or even if this project would work,’ says Sandra Schembri, CEO of The House of St Barnabas. ‘Would it be possible to gel the ultimate in luxury with the ultimate in social responsibility? But we have found that, actually, the needs of one directly service the needs of the other, but not necessarily in the way people initially think. By joining a club like this our members know their money will go towards helping the lives of some of the city’s most socially excluded, and also help to keep the building – which dates back to the 1740s – alive.’

The club has already attracted almost 500 members and has been well received. ‘We have been forging a new and exciting path, and it’s only now that we’ve got to this point that we can prove to everyone that not only is this the right thing to do, but that it is doable. Brands and businesses are finally coming to us and asking how they can get involved.’

All profits generated by the club will be donated back to the charity and spent on running the Employment Academy. The House of St Barnabas will take on 15 learners in the September training programme, increasing to 25 per programme across six programmes annually as the project builds momentum over the next three years.

With the learners making a decision to change their lives, Sandra and her team have created an environment where these people can foster their own independence and start a new chapter. ‘There’s a very holistic feel to the programme,’ she says. ‘If someone needs more work experience, training or personal development, they’ll get it. It is dependant on the needs of the individual.’

The hope is that House of St Barnabas will become synonymous with great training and helping people become fully qualified. ‘City & Guilds has added an extra layer to that,’ says Sandra.

‘Employers know what a City & Guilds qualification stands for. They can count on it. It shows that the learner has risen to meet the necessary high standards. Together we have become an accredited centre that can only add value to the lives of the people we support.’ 

To find our more about the House of St Barnabas, click here.


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