The House of St Barnabas is a unique members’ club in London that brings people together to help break the cycle of homelessness and create a fairer society.
A Charity Bank loan assisted the charity to refurbish and modernise its Grade 1 listed home to align with its innovative model of working. CEO Sandra Schembri discusses how this has improved the charity’s sustainability and allowed the team to help more people affected by homelessness gain lasting employment.
“The House of St Barnabas is a private members’ club with a difference. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we are an ever-growing community of people who share a desire to make a difference to society.
“Supporting people who have been affected by homelessness back in to lasting work is at the heart of everything we do. We run an integrated Employment Academy offering participants on-site hospitality experience as part of a 12-week programme. We then provide 12 months of further support after they complete training to help our graduates find and sustain work. Members can get involved in a variety of ways and, even if they’re simply making use of our fantastic space and facilities, they are all directly helping to change people’s lives.
“The charity has been in existence in various forms since 1846. The idea for our current integrated model combining our social mission and social enterprise was formed in 2012. To commit to this new direction, a large amount of refurbishment was required to make the house – a beautiful Grade I listed building – fit for purpose. We took out a loan from Charity Bank to complete this work and maintain cash flow while we were closed.
“It was a significant step for us to take out debt against our main asset. Charity Bank’s personal way of working was the key to easing this process. They really listened to us and our concerns and came up with tailored solutions to help. Their support has been ongoing with regular contact. It’s quite a unique thing to know someone is always at the other end of the phone to answer any queries.
“People are definitely becoming more aware of ethical consumerism and it feels like something powerful is happening with purpose-driven purchases. There’s a social conscience to know where your coffee comes from; why shouldn’t it be the same when it comes to your money?
“It’s very easy, faced with all the difficulties in the world, to feel as though your actions are inconsequential – but in fact the opposite is true. Telling positive stories like ours and those of all Charity Bank’s borrowers is so important in helping people realise they do have the ability to make a difference. You might only have £5 to save, but you can choose where you save it and how it gets used. You can become part of a bigger movement through saving with an ethical bank like Charity Bank; that’s a very empowering thing.”