Emmaus supports formerly homeless people [known as Companions] by giving them a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise and an opportunity to get themselves back on their feet again. For many people who experience homelessness, one of the biggest obstacles they must overcome is a loss of self-esteem. Emmaus provides an opportunity to regain this, with a chance to make a real contribution to their community.
Emmaus communities are not hostels; they provide a home for as long as someone needs it. For many, this support and stability is like the family they don’t have, providing a safe environment in which to settle and re-build their lives. Often this is an opportunity to overcome issues such as addiction, get support with mental health issues or rebuild relationships with estranged family.
Social enterprise is central to the Emmaus model as it provides meaningful work for companions but also generates funding to maintain communities. Companions living in Emmaus communities are expected to sign off all benefits, with the exception of housing benefit, which is used to help to support the charity. The rest of the funding that is needed is generated through social enterprise and fundraising.
Emmaus communities deliver a significant return on investment. Research shows that for every £1 invested in a community, there is an £11 social, environmental and economic return, with savings to the benefits bill, health services and a reduction in crime.
The first Emmaus community was founded in Paris, in 1949, by Father Henri-Antoine Grouès, better known as Abbé Pierre. He was an MP, Catholic priest and former member of the French Resistance who fought to provide homes for those who lived on the streets of Paris.
Since the first community opened in the UK in 1991, Emmaus has grown quickly. There are now 29 communities spread across the UK, with a further five groups currently working to establish new communities. The UK is now the largest Emmaus movement outside of France.
There are now more than 815 Emmaus companions living at communities stretching from Glasgow to Dover. Each one has at least one shop or social enterprise, with many running successful cafés, shops, gardening projects and removal companies.
The idea to set up Emmaus Oxford began in the mid-1990s when Jean Williams, an Oxford resident, wrote a letter to the Oxford Times making this suggestion, and the interest generated from this led to a local campaign group being formed. This eventually culminated in the success of the project, with Jean as a founding trustee.
In 1998, Emmaus Oxford became a registered charity, and in 2005 a local trust gifted some land, along with a successful planning application to build a residential unit for 24 formerly homeless people.
In 2007, we partnered with a housing association and in 2009 they completed the building work for us. We opened the doors for the first time to homeless people in March 2009 and added 4 more places in a semi-detached annex next door in 2012.
Emmaus Oxford currently provides accommodation and support to 28 ex-homeless men and women, based out of two properties in Cowley in Oxford. Companions have their own room and are supported by a team of Support Workers and have access to a counsellor. Companions take part in a wide range of training and personal development courses provided both internally and externally.
While our store makes a major contribution to our running costs we still need the support of our local community, if you would like to help or learn more about Emmaus Oxford visit our website.