It’s my great pleasure to introduce the 2021-22 Emmaus annual review. This has been my first year as Chief Executive of Emmaus UK and it’s been an absolute pleasure to see all of the amazing work that is going on across the federation.
During the past year we have been doing a lot of work to prepare for the future, developing our new strategic plan and setting out our ambitions to help more people, work smarter, shout louder about the work we are doing in the UK and work together better as a federation.
So much of this work is now getting underway and it’s great to see. Everything we do at Emmaus is the result of the individual and collective efforts of our members, and is enabled by our brilliant supporters.
Like everyone, we know we will face challenges in the year ahead, but by working together, we will continue to make a difference to the lives of people experiencing homelessness and poverty in the UK.
companion rooms provided a safe place from homelessness
communities supported people to rebuild their lives
groups became support hubs for their local communities
Emmaus has been supporting people in the UK for 30 years and communities continue to grow and evolve. Emmaus Hastings & Rother celebrated their 10th anniversary of supporting people in one of the most deprived areas of the country. Emmaus Hertfordshire marked 20 years of serving their local community, in which time they have supported hundreds of people. And Emmaus Mossley and Brighton both held huge community events to celebrate their 25th anniversaries.
Emmaus UK aims to help more people by delivering more activities that address homelessness and poverty, maximising the use of all companion rooms, creating more homes, and developing a wider range of employment and move-on housing.
Here are some examples of how we have achieved this aim.
“I came to Emmaus Bolton in January 2022, and I found it really warm and welcoming. Everyone here seems to get you. It’s in the workshop here that I feel at home.
“I used to work in demolition, it helped me deal with stress. Last year the company that I worked for was sold out and they got rid of everyone; that’s why I became homeless.
“Emmaus has shown me nothing but kindness and acceptance. I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t here. When I was homeless, I didn’t know what was coming next. It was quite scary.
“It’s the hours of work that I’m doing here that have taken my mind off it. I’m painting and sanding down the furniture, fixing things that are broken, making something old into something new and nice again. It passes the time as I can get really stuck into it. We’ve had great feedback from customers; one sent a thank you card recently. That made me feel awesome.
“It’s such a weight off, coming here. I’m only 28 so I’ll save up for a flat and a job. I love that I’ve got the skills in joinery and demolition so that’s what I’d like to do in future.”
As part of its work to tackle poverty and isolation across the county, Emmaus Suffolk holds a number of sessions each week for local people.
These free-to-attend sessions offer a supportive and friendly safe space for people who are vulnerable, socially isolated, or long-term unemployed to relax and enjoy themselves.
There’s no set format to the hubs; visitors can simply enjoy a cuppa and a chat, or can play games, build puzzles or read a book. There are also a range of different craft activities, including glass painting, making candles and silk art, as well as sewing and gardening groups.
Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Emmaus UK joined colleagues in Emmaus Europe to raise money for the two Emmaus communities in Ukraine and those on the Polish and Romanian borders who are supporting refugees.
The funds raised by our appeal helped local groups to hand out food, clothing and medicines on a daily basis to displaced people. Across the borders in Romania and Poland, Emmaus communities have been using the funds raised to purchase emergency supplies locally, provide hot food and support host families who are providing for refugees.
Emmaus Village Carlton supports Ukraine refugees
Emmaus Village Carlton joined the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, offering a three-bedroom house, a one-bedroom flat and three single person flats at its Bedfordshire site.
The scheme allows people to host Ukrainian refugees who don’t have family ties in the UK, for up to 12 months. Emmaus Village Carlton has so far welcomed five guests from Ukraine, offering rent-free accommodation, clothing, food and other essential supplies.
Emmaus Bradford has opened as the 30th Emmaus community in the UK and will provide a safe home and meaningful work and training to up to 25 people who have experienced homelessness.
Local businesses and Emmaus corporate partners helped turn the former care home into a new Emmaus community home. Turner & Wood Decorating Supplies donated more than 100 litres of paint to decorate communal areas and companion bedrooms and, when the community’s boiler broke, Emmaus Leeds and corporate partners Cadent and KeepMoat Homes helped Emmaus Bradford to get a new heating system installed.
This year Emmaus Cambridge and Emmaus Hastings & Rother have provided support with school uniforms to local families in need.
Emmaus Hastings & Rother held a school uniform sale with discounted items before the start of the new school year. Emmaus Cambridge has a dedicated children’s clothing section in its store and all school uniform items are free.
“I first heard about Emmaus in 2009 when I approached a few charities regarding a company volunteering day. In the following years I led five volunteering days at Emmaus communities.
“In 2015, I was asked to become a trustee at Emmaus Lambeth and served on the board and finance subcommittee for three and a half years. When a suitable job came up with them, I resigned as a trustee, applied for, and got the job.
“While at Emmaus I’ve completed a few secondments in other communities and I have always wanted to focus on companion care so, when the job of Community Support Manager at Emmaus Bradford came up, I applied; not expecting to even get an interview. I dared and here I am, in Bradford, living the dream!
“I have seen that Emmaus works. I have seen companions moving into work, their own homes, going to university, becoming parents. I’m looking forward to helping Emmaus Bradford’s companions get their lives back on track so that they can move on from homelessness.”
Here are just a few of the innovative things our Emmaus communities are doing to work smarter, reduce their environmental impact and make the most of the opportunities on offer.
“My role is to help Emmaus communities develop their retail offering. I go into the community and review where they have gaps in their retail work, giving them my feedback and also offering support to help them to fill those gaps.
“This ranges from working with management to develop their confidence and ability to delegate, to training staff and companions on space allocation to make sure the shop floors are reflecting customer purchasing trends.
“I also support the Business Managers and Online Selling peer groups, bringing staff from across the federation together to share best practice. I’m really proud of these groups because they’re sharing their successes and learning from each other. Emmaus does so much fantastic work. I’m proud to be part of the Emmaus team. “
Emmaus South Manchester has joined forces with Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) on an ‘Arts for Good Health’ project called Reworx to provide surplus second-hand clothes for service users to upcycle and redesign into fashion products. The products are then donated back to Emmaus to sell in its charity shop.
The course supports GMMH service users to improve their mental health and wellbeing by connecting with others, learning new creative design skills, and contributing towards a shared charitable goal. It also reduces harmful textile waste, by promoting the practice of recycling, repurposing, and engaging in a no-waste circular economy. All funds raised will help Emmaus South Manchester to open its community home and help people living in the local area.
To help reduce its environmental impact, Emmaus Bristol purchased an e-cargo bike to carry out collections and deliveries of smaller furniture and bric-a-brac in the local area.
The bike is a lot more time efficient in a city centre and will allow the community to continue its work when a clean air zone is introduced in the city.
The bike was funded by a grant from Travelwest and staff and companions received training on how to ride the bike from Life Cycle UK.
In just 12 months, Emmaus Bolton upcycled 100 pieces of furniture, breathing new life into items that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.
The items are upcycled in the community’s workshop where people supported by the charity are given the opportunity to train and develop new skills.
Jacob, a companion at Emmaus Bolton, said: “I’ve not drank since I’ve come here and feel much better for it. I’d never thought about upcycling before, but there’s such a demand for it. Now I see it as a job.”
We aim to shout louder in order to raise awareness about who we are and what we offer, enhance our profile in the sectors in which we work, improve the lives of people we support through campaigning and influencing, and engage more potential companions, supporters and customers.
Last year an episode of CountryFile was filmed at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney. It showed the support on offer to people who live in Emmaus communities. Steve saw the feature and realised Emmaus could help him:
“I was made redundant after 25 years’ service. I started to drink quite heavily and was diagnosed with severe depression. I also got divorced, moved out the family home and moved in with a friend who was suffering from a terminal illness.
“One evening we saw an episode of CountryFile which was about Emmaus. The whole Emmaus ethos stood out to me. At the end of the programme I phoned Emmaus, went for a visit at Emmaus Dover and joined a week later.
“Everybody chips in and helps each other. The best thing for me is if you need to have a chat then nobody’s door is shut, everybody is willing to talk.
“I’ve always been into physical exercise and while I’ve been at Emmaus I’ve helped set up the gym. Emmaus has supported me to get my personal training, sports massage and nutrition qualifications so I design routines for people and help with nutrition if they want it. I want to have my own gym in the future, I’ve got that stuck up on my wardrobe door.
“I also do counselling every week and that’s helped change my outlook, to not dwell on the past and instead think ‘what can I learn from this’.”
This year, we launched our very own podcast, Homelessness Matters. It highlights the many reasons someone may become homeless and raises awareness about what being homeless truly means.
In each episode we speak to someone with experience of being homeless who has received support from one of our 30 Emmaus communities in the UK. The podcast explores a variety of important issues including mental health, addiction, debt, domestic violence and much more.
A few weeks after launching, series one of Homelessness Matters reached number one in the non-profit chart of Apple podcasts!
Here’s a sample from Amy’s interview:
What are the misconceptions about homelessness?
“As soon as people find out you’re homeless it’s like they don’t want to know you. There are millions of reasons why people are homeless and it’s not always our fault. Mine was domestic violence. Someone else’s might be that they just can’t cope in a property on their own. We’re still people at the end of the day.”
In February, the Government confirmed it would repeal the Vagrancy Act, an 1824 law that allowed police to arrest and charge people for sleeping rough or begging in England and Wales.
Charlotte Talbott, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK, said:
“This outdated law further entrenches damaging and false assumptions about the experience of homelessness and destitution. We urge the Government to repeal all laws which further marginalise those who are in greatest need.”
We joined the Scrap the Act campaign, coordinated by Crisis, to call on the Government to scrap this outdated law that criminalises repetitive homelessness and pushes people further from support.
Christian, TJ and Steve, companions from Emmaus Village Carlton have become regular guests on Revolution Radio’s Reality Check programme which has also been turned into a podcast.
The three of them share their experiences and thoughts about homelessness throughout Northampton and beyond, and promote their involvement with The Rucksack Stomp, Emmaus Village Carlton’s street outreach project.
Listen to The Reality Check on Revolution Radio’s website.
Emmaus Bolton held its first kilo sale and teamed up with leading fashion bloggers to showcase the sustainable vintage and retro fashion on offer.
As a national and international movement, Emmaus has lots of opportunities to work together and make the most of our collective experiences.
Here are some examples of how we have worked together better.
“I was made homeless when my relationship broke down. I lived on the streets for six weeks. Luckily, I found out about Emmaus Merseyside. I joined the community in April 2017 and the rest is history.
“When I was asked if I’d like to go to the Emmaus World Assembly in Uruguay I was very excited as I had never been out of this country or on an aeroplane before.
“It was an amazing week and I had the time of my life. I met a lot of very interesting people from Emmaus communities all over the world. It was very enlightening.
“On the final day we had a trip to a museum in Uruguay and visited an Emmaus community called Nuevo Paris. It was quite a shock to see how little they had compared to the communities in this country. I hope in the future I will be able to see other communities in other countries.”
In May, members of Emmaus communities in the UK and staff from Emmaus UK flew to Uruguay to represent the UK at the Emmaus World Assembly.
The Emmaus World Assembly takes place every four years and offers people from Emmaus groups across the world the opportunity to come together to discuss, debate and connect.
Debates were held on the environmental, economic, social and democratic challenges facing the world population today and how Emmaus can respond to these challenges collectively.
In May, more than 250 companions, staff, volunteers and trustees from across the UK federation came together for the two-day Emmaus National Assembly.
The event focused on our five-year strategic plan and the future of the Emmaus movement in the UK. Sessions were delivered by Emmaus International, Emmaus Europe and colleagues from across the homelessness sector.
This was the first Emmaus National Assembly since 2019 so it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and build new connections.
In May, Emmaus North Staffs embarked on the huge task of closing its Emmaus Furniture Mine warehouse and moving its flagship store to a bigger and more central location.
On the day, a crew from Emmaus Mossley and 16 people from Emmaus Preston joined staff and volunteers at Emmaus North Staffs to complete the move.
The new Emmaus Furniture & Home Warehouse will fund the charity’s work tackling furniture poverty in the local area. By opening at the new site, Emmaus North Staffs can sell a bigger range of quality second-hand furniture and the new Donation Station makes it easier for supporters to donate items to be sold in the charity’s two stores.
Our corporate partner, law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, offered pro bono legal support with the lease negotiations. This, combined with the support from Emmaus Mossley and Emmaus Preston, ensured the move was as quick and efficient as possible. This helped Emmaus North Staffs to get back to business as quickly as possible. A great team effort.
None of what Emmaus does would be possible without our brilliant supporters, who always go above and beyond to support our work.
Eight-year-old Jacob took part in our Big Marathon Month 2022 challenge – to walk, run or cycle 26.2 miles in the month of June.
Jacob decided to take on an extra challenge of covering 70 miles to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
In the Emmaus t-shirt he handcrafted, Jacob completed a staggering 75.2 miles which led to him raising a fantastic £1,480 for his local Emmaus in Leeds.
This year our supporters have put their bodies and minds to the test, all to raise funds for Emmaus.
Our corporate partners have donated time, skills and funds to support our communities across the UK.
To celebrate National Earth Day, staff from Flex volunteered at Emmaus Merseyside, helping the community develop its onsite garden.
Law firm Charles Russell Speechlys provided more then 140 hours of pro bono legal support to Emmaus communities and Emmaus UK. The team supported Emmaus North Staffs to negotiate the lease on its new retail sites. John Webbe, Executive Lead of Emmaus North Staffs said, “Charles Russell Speechlys patiently guided me through the process, we couldn’t have done it without them!”
It has been so wonderful to be able to get back out to visit Emmaus communities again this year, after the challenges of lockdown. Meeting with companions and hearing their stories and how they have progressed during their time at Emmaus is always a big inspiration.
I know only too well the impact isolation can have on a person, and experiencing homelessness can be such an isolating experience for so many people. But thanks to Emmaus and its supporters, hundreds of people across the country have had the chance to be part of a community and overcome that isolation.
Emmaus is a wonderful organisation that makes a big difference. Everyone who supports the work of this charity is doing so much to change lives. We are extremely grateful for that support and everything else that is done to support those who need it across the UK.