A Christmas Carol Concert was held in December 1999 at which Emmaus UK President, Terry Waite CBE, introduced Emmaus to the city. In the same year a full-time project director was appointed to spearhead the project.
The early efforts of those involved in launching Emmaus Leeds concentrated on relationship building, fundraising and a search for a suitable property. By 2002, the charity had a diverse group of trustees from the local area and a wider network of supporters, all focussed on establishing an Emmaus community in Leeds.
A property in Lincoln Green, the former St Charles School, was identified, planning permission obtained and funding from a variety of sources helped with the launch. Emmaus Leeds was also supported at this early stage by many donations from individuals and organisations across Leeds.
Building conversion work to create the Emmaus Leeds community and social enterprise started in March 2003. By November of that year the charity had opened its doors and began its work of supporting homeless people and helping them move on from homelessness.
Emmaus Leeds welcomed its first companions on 3 November 2003 and opened the social enterprise on 28 November 2003 following an opening ceremony attended by Emmaus Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Kent.
Over subsequent years both companion numbers and staff members increased, as the charity built momentum and more people became aware of Emmaus Leeds. The staff team nurtured a culture of personal growth, purposefulness, pride in work and achievement. Companion training and development became a strong feature of life at Emmaus Leeds.
Solidarity, another core value of Emmaus, also took root at the Emmaus Leeds community. In the early years, several companions organised a community fayre in Lincoln Green, the community hosted a local senior’s tea dance and free meeting facilities were offered to charities and groups in the area. Kitchen and storage space was also gifted to The Simon Community to support their valuable work helping street-homeless people.
Companions volunteered with other local charities and helped with fundraising activities for Emmaus Sheffield, Emmaus UK and St James’ Hospital. Support was also given to new Emmaus communities being established, notably Emmaus Bradford and Emmaus Hull.
Over the years the number of companion rooms at Emmaus Leeds increased to 26. The communal rooms have been enhanced and the social enterprise continues to evolve. Companion training and development remains a key focus along with solidarity activities and community fundraisers.
In November 2018, Emmaus Leeds celebrated its 15th anniversary with a special event at the community building. Terry Waite CBE attended along with many supporters of the charity and some of the former pupils of St Charles School.
Emmaus Leeds continues to evolve and grow but at the core, the charity remains focussed on helping people affected by homelessness. Find out more about some of the people supported by Emmaus Leeds.