Chris O’Donnell has been involved with Emmaus Hull & East Riding as a Trustee for twelve years and Chair for two years. As we now recruit for a new Chair, he reflects on his journey and experiences.

We’ve gone from a small group of enthusiasts meeting in borrowed premises to a flourishing and innovative community of almost thirty formerly homeless people (our companions) in a purpose-built residence and commercial centre.

“It’s been quite a journey, but hard work from all our trustees and staff has made it happen.”

We set out to have a facility of which Hull and the East Riding could be proud, as well as providing a real home for our companions. It took seven years to find the partners and funds to achieve this, but we finally opened our premises on Lockwood Street in 2016, and they have served us and the community well to date.

We’ve had special visitors; The Duchess of Cornwall, our national Patron, was both gracious and down to earth during her visit to the community. Terry Waite, our national President, has not only visited but stayed overnight in our community. Our opening ceremony, with lots of balloons, was conducted by our two local Patrons, Alan Johnson and Patrick Doyle (who was Chair at the time). Lots of local societies, charities, companies, churches and individuals have visited, contributed, donated, and helped in so many ways.

“It has been a privilege to welcome and to thank them. The big reward is the number of companions who have joined our community and then moved on positively in their lives; into jobs, independent housing, or re-connected with family; now over a hundred since we opened.”

It’s great to see this happen and to meet them in their new lives, or when they come back to visit the community where they are always welcome.

Being Chair of our Charity is hard but rewarding work. Our trustees give a wide variety of inputs and help; our staff, with the exceptional leadership of our Director Kelly, are truly committed to the help and support of our Companions and to developing our shops, online sales, and outreach activities. Together, we have got through Covid so far in good shape, but it’s been a very stressful experience in many different ways – for our staff and our Companions – and particularly for our Rough Sleeper Outreach Team who have had very challenging times in both Hull and the East Riding.

“I’ll be sorry to stand down, but it’s an opportunity for an energetic and committed individual to lead the Board in the forward development of Emmaus Hull & East Riding.”

We can make a major contribution to reducing homelessness in the region. The enterprise is self-sustaining financially, the staff are knowledgeable and committed and we have excellent partners in the region. It’s time to take the next steps. We’d like to see an experienced individual with vision, energy, social conscience and strong identification with Hull and the East Riding chairing our Board going forward. The search starts this month.