From global to local: the story of Emmaus North Staffs…
The Emmaus movement started in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s in post-WW2 Paris by a Catholic priest & MP, Abbe Pierre. The whole story is an inspirational one of a desperate man pleading for help from Abbe Pierre, but due to the city and its residents suffering the ravages of war, with poverty and homelessness being at terrible levels, there was little help that could be offered. However, in a moment of inspiration that has shaped Emmaus ever since, Abbe Pierre told the desperate man that “I have nothing to offer you, but you could help me?” This change from asking for a hand-out to be offered a hand-up is still a core value of the Emmaus movement today.
Over the last seven decades, the Emmaus movement has grown to operate in 37 different countries around the world, with over 250 Emmaus communities and groups across France. The UK has the second largest number of Emmaus charites after France.
In the UK, Emmaus almost exclusively focuses on the ‘community’ model of residential accommodation for formerly homeless people to live in (they are known as companions) combined with social enterprises for the companions to work in full-time to the best of their ability. The UK’s Emmaus movement was established in Cambridge in 1991 and there are now 29 Emmaus communities, of which 27 are in England, 1 in Wales and 1 in Scotland. Across these 29 communities there are over 800 bedspaces with companions from many parts of the UK and the world living and working with Emmaus. In addition there are 5 other Emmaus charities, including Emmaus North Staffs, which are developing their organisations in a variety of ways to diversify the Emmaus movement in the UK. One other exciting development is with Emmaus Cornwall which is working with the Eden Project in St Austell to develop a horticulture-led Emmaus community.
In early 2016 trustees from our mentor community Emmaus Bolton recruited John Webbe to become a voluntary ‘local champion’ to develop local interest and establish a local steering group in North Staffs. The first local Emmaus steering group took place in May 2016 and the charity was registered in February 2017. The charity was originally called Emmaus Potteries to reflect the area of coverage but changed its’ name in 2019 to Emmaus North Staffs to include a geographic name, as all Emmaus charities in the UK are named after their geography. Emmaus North Staffs aims to serve people living and working across the three local authorities of Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Staffordshire Moorlands.
Our social enterprise, based in Hanley, is the largest charity shop in North Staffordshire. Emmaus Furniture Mine is open to the general public six days a week, Monday to Saturday. We have a constantly changing stock of furniture for every room of the home as well as bric-a-brac, clothes, appliances, electricals, music, books, and much more. Almost everything we sell is donated to us and we constantly need more donations.
Alongside the retail and warehouse operations, we also run a referral system for our social housing and social services partners to support people moving into new homes. We provide the core essential items of furniture, plus white goods in some circumstances, to give each household the better start possible to create a new home and a new start in life.