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‘Getting a job is not enough’: The House of St Barnabas on homelessness, hospitality and the real Living Wage

The House of St Barnabas is a charity fighting homelessness like no other. The House runs an Employment Academy for people who have been affected by homelessness, alongside an inclusive and fashionable Soho members’ club that has been featured by the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar. Passionate champions of the real Living Wage, we spoke to The House’s Director of Impact, Ceri Sheppard and People and Compliance Officer Emma Clegg about why our campaign matters to them. 

Tell us about The House of St Barnabas.

The House of St Barnabas is on a mission to break the cycle of homelessness. We run a social enterprise members’ club aiming to create a strong community of people who are invested in creating a fair and equal society, and an Employment Academy which supports people who have experienced homelessness into work.

We recognise that gaining and maintaining good quality, paid work is instrumental to independence and security, so we aim to create a future in which lasting work is a reality for people affected by homelessness. It was therefore fundamental to our values and to the delivery of our mission that we pay the Living Wage and accredited as a Living Wage Employer.

How does the Living Wage help to end cycles of homelessness?

We know from the people we support in our Employment Academy that ‘getting a job’ is not enough for people to move away from the cliff-edge of homelessness: what people really need is good quality employment. That means employment that pays the Living Wage, provides guaranteed hours, opportunities for progression and has a culture of supporting employees well-being.

When people who have experienced homelessness move into work, they may bring an accumulation of challenges with them. Debt, for example, is often one of them. That could be due to benefit payment errors – nothing to do with the way an individual has managed their money. So, in the context of ending homelessness, not only is the Living Wage is important for people being able to meet their basic living costs, but it’s also important to support people with additional challenges and possibly no savings trying to move into work. The ability to pay monthly rent and to deal with emergencies that crop up is vital in terms of people not becoming homeless again.

Why is paying the Living Wage important to the other side of your business – the Soho members club?

We aim to provide good quality employment and paying the Living Wage is about the fundamentals of good work. It’s the way employers should be showing appreciation for people’s hard work. It means the people who work here can see our values in practise, not just in banners over the doors outside, so it has a really big impact on people’s commitment to the organisation. Accrediting with the Living Wage Foundation provided a really important marker for us in that respect, a way of putting a line in the sand.

Paying the Living Wage to the staff who work in our members’ club also highlights the wider issue of pay and employment practises in the hospitality sector. One of the biggest differences between the employment we provide, and other hospitality employers is that we have removed service charge, which we believe is often put on bills to support poor wages. When the pandemic hit and people were furloughed on 80% of their normal income, it really showed the cracks in the system that hospitality workers can fall into – landlords don’t take service charge into account, they take the basic rate of pay. Customers at our club are welcome to leave tips for our staff are very welcome to do that. But it’s in the knowledge that it’s not required for people to make their salary up to a liveable wage.

If you could sum up what paying the Living Wage means in one word, what would it be?

That’s easy: respect.

 

Help us do right by workers and families by becoming a Living Wage Employer today.

6th January 2022
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