The Nationwide Building Society is launching a partnership with homelessness charity St Mungo’s aimed at providing a consistent and compassionate response to people rough sleeping on the high street.
The UK’s largest building society is also urging other businesses to follow suit.
With the launch of the HomelessWise initiative, Nationwide has become the first financial organisation in the country to support a new online portal, managed by St Mungo’s, which signposts its staff towards a range of locally-available support services and practical help for homeless people sleeping on the streets.
In addition, St Mungo’s has developed specialist training for Nationwide staff members, to give them the confidence to provide the right response to those sleeping rough and needing help.
The society is the leading sponsor and member of HomelessWise, a community of high street member organisations managed by St Mungo’s, and it is hoped that other high street businesses will now join the programme.
The HomelessWise initiative will provide online and offline expertise and resources to help staff in Nationwide branches to respond in practical and meaningful ways to those who are rough sleeping. This includes appropriate referrals to StreetLink – an app and weblink designed to alert local authorities to people sleeping rough in England and Wales – as well as awareness-raising for other homelessness services and local support groups. Nationwide staff are also working with St Mungo’s to understand better the issues contributing to why people may be sleeping rough or homeless and what support is accessible near their local branch.
Eight Nationwide branches have initially been trialling the development of HomelessWise, and it will now be rolled out across the Society’s network of branches throughout the UK.
Charlotte Kensett, Nationwide’s director of social investment, said: “The HomelessWise community of organisations is designed to offer practical, consistent and compassionate support for our branch teams who may encounter the realities of those who may be homeless or sleeping rough, safe in the knowledge that they are acting in the best interests not just of people sleeping rough but also their work colleagues.
“We also wanted to make sure there is consistent and meaningful advice on the high street for the most vulnerable in our communities. Now we’re encouraging other companies on the high street to do the same and join the programme.”
Petra Salva, St Mungo’s director of rough sleepers, ex-offenders and migrant services, said: “There is a clear and growing interest amongst the business community in being part of how we all help to reverse the rising number of people who are homeless and sleeping rough. St Mungo’s sees HomelessWise as a community of members who are informed and educated about homelessness, and who know how to connect people in need to local services that can help.
“We have used feedback from our clients and our knowledge and expertise to develop face-to-face coaching, e-learning and an online portal, which has localised advice and support links for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Business members who join the HomelessWise community can also feed into the development of the portal so together we can continually improve the support for people sleeping rough.”