My name is Paul Cloke and I have been a Deputy Community Leader at Emmaus Leeds for over ten years. During this time, the team here has always known that you cannot achieve positive change in isolation. Partnership working can take many different forms. From my own point of view, if you want to be a part of the solution to end homelessness and be able to have some understanding of the issues companions talk to us about, we really need to understand what is out there.

We may have all done it at some time, been so engrossed in something – a good book, that TV programme, work – that we fail to notice the things around us. I remember studying last minute at college for an exam and just keeping going, until I looked up and noticed that it was getting light and I had been up all night. I know that I performed poorly that next day in the exam, not terrible, but could have been better.

Investing time to build partnerships

Whilst our social enterprise has its own links such as Reuse Network and Recycle For Leeds, it is also important to forge similar relationships for referrals and importantly, the tailored support of our companions. Here at Emmaus Leeds we have always done this, but for several reasons it sometimes meant an email to ‘that charity we know that works with homeless people a few miles away’.

Recently we have been able to go that bit further. On a regular basis, I attend two drop-in sessions at nearby Leeds homelessness organisations, well known and established within the city – St Anne’s fortnightly at their lunch club on a Friday, and St George’s Crypt fortnightly on a Monday. Both essentially involve going and building a rapport with people who are homeless and trying to find something or someone to assist in their situation. It is great to just talk over a coffee and see if joining the Emmaus Leeds community is something they may be interested in. It might not be and that’s fine – it all helps to build up that picture of support that is out there should the person want this.

Chris Fields, CEO of St. George’s Crypt, said: “We welcome any pro-active partnerships which help our residents move on in positive ways. It’s great having Paul visit on a regular basis in order to build up relationships and ultimately secure a great place to live and work such as Emmaus.”

Partnerships change lives

I could never predict the benefits of doing this. From working together, we have housed four companions in Emmaus, in part because of this approach of getting out more. You meet people within organisations and start to know how it fits together – what is working well and what may be able to be done better of course! From going to learn more about St Giles’ Trust Peer mentoring, we now have a companion successfully enrolled onto their next course in January 2020 and they will be working towards a qualification in Advice and Support. Also, it has been good to build a different relationship with Leeds City Council and Housing Options, something that cannot be done effectively on the end of a phone.

Emmaus Leeds have also signed up to the Leeds Homeless Charter – a guiding set of principles for organisations to agree on. There are numerous working groups and we are there, listening to those issues that affect others and seeing what part we can play. Across Leeds there is a definite drive for organisations to work more closely with one another, to build partnerships that ultimately help people who are homeless get the support they need.

Work together

I was asked what the one thing I want to really get across in this blog. My main message is; if you wonder if it is worth it or there are blocks in the organisation, break them! Try it because from my experience, it works. We have found that through better partnership working, Emmaus Leeds benefits but most importantly so do the people that we exist to support. If you remain insular within your organisation you may be like that person who studies all night by yourself and doesn’t realise time has passed, and you just might not perform as well as you could.

If you work in the homelessness or housing sector and would like to visit Emmaus Leeds to see the work we do and meet with the team, please feel free to contact me on 0113 3807846.