This Summer we welcome our new Chair of Trustees, Vivienne Depledge to join our team. Get to know Vivienne in her story below:

I’ve known Emmaus for years. It’s one of those places you know as a second-hand shop and a local charity. I started learning more about Emmaus Colchester when I was running a Colchester charity called Beacon House and Emmaus was one of the groups we would refer people to. Beacon House and Emmaus often worked together to provide solutions.

My experience in the homelessness sector goes back many years to the 1990s. I started by working for housing associations in London, first at Ealing Family Housing Association. I then moved from housing associations to the housing department in Croydon. I had a brilliant job as a finance manager, but I was more like a business entrepreneur, so I could suggest changes and innovations to improve the department.

The job at Beacon House was the first time I worked in homelessness directly, but I’ve got a long history working in housing. I believe that just because someone has got a roof, it doesn’t mean they’ve got a home.

For some time, I’ve had that concept that just shoving someone into a tenancy isn’t a solution at all. With that approach, you’re only seeing people as a problem to be dealt with and once they have a flat, they are solved.

I’m interested in bringing wholeness to people’s lives and not just putting a roof over someone’s head. I’ve used this phrase already in this role, but making things person-centred, what might work for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. There’ll be a hundred different reasons that someone came knocking at Emmaus’ door and there’ll be a hundred different routes in how they develop and move on.

What is most important when helping people out of homelessness, is that people need to know they belong somewhere. Once you’ve got a sense of belonging, you can start building your self-esteem and identify who you are. There’s got to be some aspect in your life that inspires you to do better, whateverbettermeans to you, even if that’s going outside and chatting with someone. You’ve got to be in a space where you feel supported. It’s important to have a sense of ownership too, knowing your four walls are yours and your private space.

What drew me to Emmaus and to become a trustee here, was Brian’s enthusiasm. I invited him to come along to the community centre I’m developing in Lexden, so we started chatting. It was the way he spoke about his vision for Emmaus, and he didn’t talk about people like they were resources or problems or even assets, he spoke about people as people – all with differences and how Emmaus could help them individually. I also liked his vision for meeting and helping more people. I wasn’t looking for a trustee role, but Emmaus really intrigued me.

I’ve been a trustee at a few other organisations, but I’ve never really looked for roles, they always seem to come to me! My first trustee role was probably over twenty years ago and I’ve also been a CEO in three other organisations. When you’re a CEO and you’re answering to trustees, you really know what makes a good trustee and how they can make a big difference. I’ve got this phrase, that trustees should be noses in and fingers out, which means you have your nose in, and you look into everything, but you don’t then say, oh I should take over.  

I always take the approach that every board member has a little bit that they can do to be better. That’s probably my approach to people who are marginalised too, there’s lots of reasons why they’ve ended up where they are and there are lots of structures that keep them down but actually, there’s normally something that they are in control of that they can do a little bit better.  It’s just all about thinkingHow can I change my behaviours today to be betterbecause that’s all we’ve got control over.

It’s so exciting to be a trustee for a charity that is actively supporting people, I think I’d struggle to be so passionate about a cause other than improving people’s lives. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and supporting Emmaus Colchester to grow and develop. I hope I can help the charity to expand from Emmaus Colchester to Emmaus Essex and support more marginalised people in the county.

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