A Home, Work, a New Beginning - Helping Homeless People Help Themselves
Emmaus Glasgow will be a flagship project for Scotland, building on the success of a model developed and applied world-wide over the last 50 years. A self-help and self-supporting social business run by a community of up to 17 homeless people, the Emmaus Glasgow Community will offer homeless and unemployed people a home, work, companionship and the chance to regain self-respect through their own efforts.
Emmaus welcomes any homeless, unemployed person willing to live by its 3 basic rules:
- no drink, drugs or violence on site;
- sign off primary social security benefits (Job Seekers Allowance/Income Support);
- be willing to work and participate in Community Life.
"What most rough sleepers want above all is a fresh start in life - a job, a home and the confidence to re-establish contact with familiar friends or start again from scratch. But many lack basic skills and most need intensive support to make the transition from homelessness to a job."
(The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in his introduction to the Report of the Social Exclusion Unit on Tackling Rough Sleeping - July 1998)
"Homelessness is not just a housing problem"
(Chair, Homelessness Task Force & Minister for Social Justice
Iain Gray, MSP - March 2002)
The Need for an Emmaus Glasgow
There are 2-300 homeless people sleeping rough as well as 2,400 single homeless people who are living in several large hostels in Glasgow's city centre. Emmaus Glasgow aims to be a user led initiative and to this end we have conducted extensive research interviewing homeless people in Glasgow. We have published this in a separate document. We heard that what homeless people really need in order to settle includes:
- a sense of worth;
- respect from others;
- a way out of dependency;
- freedom from fear;
- rewarding activity;
- decent secure accommodation.
Emmaus covers all these, and offers individuals an opportunity to move forward from homelessness in a holistic way. Emmaus does provide a home, but it is about much more than just a roof over the head. And as well as helping the Companions to regain confidence and dignity, to develop their life and work skills, and to move on, we'll also make a real contribution in the local community in Possil.
Glasgow will benefit from this development contributing to the local regeneration of an area in several ways:
- providing a local eco-recycling resource;
- providing local community facilities;
- providing training for work opportunities;
- providing volunteering opportunities;
- attracting new business & social activity to the area.
Who is involved
Emmaus Glasgow is made up of Glasgow people providing expertise in project development as trustees or on specific task groups (e.g. property, homelessness advisory, fund-raising, business research). We are building on the track record of over 400 Emmaus Communities world-wide and are actively supported by Emmaus UK who have developed 7 Communities in the UK since 1992. Emmaus Glasgow will be the first in Scotland. We have the backing of many of the key homelessness and housing agencies in Glasgow. Our aspiration is to have a management committee made up of 50% homeless people and service users
The Business will be recycling unwanted or donated household items, mainly through the reclamation, renovation and resale of furniture, though also involving composting, restoration work, white goods and other local services as demanded.
The Property to be developed at Ellesmere St in Possilpark will comprise a workshop, a community living block, retail space, office, and staff accommodation. We anticipate a phased building development to include training for work self-build element.
The Revenue will be generated from the business activity with the aim of the project becoming self-sufficient after 3 years. Residents of the community are known as Companions. As a condition of joining they will come off primary benefits (JSA) and become part of the Emmaus community. Once established, the project should save the taxpayer £57,200 per year in income support alone. As all Emmaus Communities are committed to sharing surplus with those in greater need, the principle of solidarity, Emmaus Glasgow will give away any surplus generated.
We aim to raise the initial capital costs by fundraising from:
- Community Fund Scotland;
- private trust funds and corporate donors;
- Social Inclusion Partnerships (SIPs);
- Scottish Enterprise Glasgow;
- European Regional Development Fund;
- Other statutory & grant making sources as identified.
There are several options we are considering for our business activity. We expect there to be a core business around which other options will fluctuate according to market demand, skills of Companions and other economic considerations. We will do two or more of the following type of activity depending on the area, our workspace and detailed local business research.
- repair and renovation of furniture, donated furniture can be enhanced and have value added to it by stripping and re-varnishing or by painting;
- collecting and re-circulating donated goods, by selling the goods in the Community shop;
- recycling: this may be dismantling and sorting of metal scrap from irreparable white goods or the collection of waste materials (such as paper, cans, rags);
- making furniture, often using reclaimed timber;
- small local contracts for gardening and maintenance;
- light removals and household clearance.
A Workshop Manager will be employed to oversee the health and safety in the workshop, to help Companions develop their work abilities and to contribute to day to day business decisions.
Emmaus Glasgow has established strong links with Community Self-Build Scotland and hopes to work together once the site is occupied. This follows the successful example of Emmaus Mossley (Manchester) which carried out part of its development through 'train and build' projects in association with other local providers. 'Train and build' is a proven method of training offering invaluable on the job training for local unemployed people and Companions who wish to learn a trade. Two Companions from Mossley Emmaus went on to get full time jobs in the construction industry. It also cuts the cost of development by 15-30% and allows the community a greater involvement and control in developments as the phasing progresses.
That is the starting point and from thereon the Community will take control of these decisions and shape the work activities to the ways in which the individual people who make up the Community can best benefit and begin to rebuild their skills and make a new life for themselves. Companions acquire some basic working skills, simple but important things, such as team working, taking responsibility, dealing with customers, light van work, house-clearance or furniture stripping. Few leave Emmaus without having at least re-learned the skill of working consistently and effectively.
All Emmaus Communities help to tackle the problems of waste in our society. Every article of furniture or clothing collected by an Emmaus van is one less item to go on to a rubbish tip. An established Emmaus Community will be collecting something between 500 and 750 tonnes of furniture, domestic appliances and bric-a-brac a year from its daily collections for resale or recycling. This is a significant contribution to the local and natural community.
Other recycling facilities we expect to provide include; composting - by using wormeries, wood-chipping, paper & glass collection and reclamation of disused timber such as pallets.
Our main business market will be by providing a source of reasonably priced second-hand goods particularly furniture and tested electrical goods, clothes, and bric-a-brac. All Emmaus shops provide a valuable community resource of affordable goods. Our business research so far has shown that though there are several second hand furniture shops in Glasgow, as expected in a city of such a size. There are gaps in the middle market priced goods and together with the significant business advantages that Emmaus has in our ability to collect and deliver with a large selling space to view there seems to be plenty of opportunity within this diverse business sector.
Most Emmaus Communities, living by their principles of sharing and helping those who have less, have a policy to offer furniture and goods at low prices to those who cannot afford to pay more. In Glasgow we will develop links with other existing social furniture projects, and provide complimentary services to theirs, perhaps by meeting gaps in areas that the existing projects are not allowed to cover, or by simply assisting with the types of furniture that such projects find hard to resource - such as white goods.
"You get really humiliated in many ways when you are on the street. Even friends turn against you. You have no money, so you have to bow and scrape and beg for a slice of bread. You see, it is the self-respect, the dignity that's so important. When you leave Emmaus you can walk down the street with your head in the air, and say, I can work and feel so much more confident. You feel as though you have been put together again."
An Emmaus Community is a self-help and (ultimately) self-supporting social business run by a community of homeless people. Each Community offers homeless, unemployed people a home, work, companionship and the chance to regain self-respect through their efforts. There is no religious element to the Community and entry is open to homeless people of any creed or none, and irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation.
Emmaus draws its inspiration from Abbé Pierre, a French priest and former Resistance worker, and one time member of the French Parliament, who developed the concept and established the first Emmaus Community in France in 1949. His ideas have inspired the setting up, since then, of over 400 Emmaus Communities around the world, in 44 countries, almost all of which are self-supporting except the more newly established communities. They offer more than 12,000 places to homeless or poor people to rebuild their lives. Emmaus is a place name from a story in the Bible. It tells of meeting and conversation, the offer of hospitality, unexpected insights and renewed hope.
The first British Emmaus Community opened in June 1992 at Landbeach near Cambridge, which is now self-supporting. There are now 7 Communities operating in the UK and 15 local groups working to establish new communities. The Emmaus Movement in the UK is a federal structure, with each Community and start-up project being a member of the Federation. The function of Emmaus UK is to provide practical support to both new projects and established Communities, to foster development of the movement in the UK, and to ensure that the basic principles and ideals of Emmaus are respected and followed. Emmaus in the UK is in turn part of the world-wide Emmaus movement. There are at present over 400 Communities in 44 countries.
Emmaus Communities are based on the fundamental principle that a fair and decent society will only exist where all are prepared to help those who have less, helping those who have least first. The motivating principle sustaining each Emmaus Community is one of love and respect for one's fellow human beings. This involves the recognition of the basic dignity of all, even those for whom life has brought nothing but misery and despair, and, through that recognition, the willingness to help those in adversity to restore their self-respect. The Universal Emmaus Manifesto - which binds all Emmaus's in the world together, is set out in Appendix 2.
"It's called, how can I say, having a soul. We all mislay it somewhere along the line. I'm just finding it again."
The Emmaus Model
Social exclusion is often a long complex process involving a number of factors, such as relationship breakdown, poverty, addictions, unemployment and homelessness. Social inclusion is therefore most likely to be a long complex process that cannot be facilitated by working on single issues in isolation. Emmaus offers an environment that is holistic in approach. What makes Emmaus Communities unique is that each Community offers a combination of the things that socially excluded people most need.
A home - which is more than merely a roof or a temporary shelter. The Community itself becomes the 'family'; somewhere safe, supportive and secure, a place where every Companion has his or her own 'space'.
A Job - real work, not pretend work. Communities are open to anyone seeking a home who is willing, in return, to share the work of ensuring that the Community sustains itself. The jobs that need doing offer an opportunity to learn new skills and are part of the path to the recovery of self-respect and self-esteem through personal effort. Work is key to that.
A new life - Emmaus Communities across the world have helped many thousands to begin the difficult journey back into 'mainstream' society, because Emmaus recognises that those caught in the downward spiral of poverty and homelessness are inevitably damaged, either physically or mentally, often both. Those who bear such scars need a protective environment within which to piece their life together, and repair the damage sustained. It is a process that can be both painful and slow, but which is possible with help and support.
Community: Emmaus Glasgow will be home for 16-17 people, called 'Companions'. They will live as a Community, sharing decisions about how they live and work within the Emmaus model, facilitated by the two Co-ordinators.
Personal Privacy: Within this supported, "family-style" community, each Companion will have his/her own room - their own 'space'.
A way back from welfare to self-respect: Each Companion will 'sign off' primary benefit (Job Seekers Allowance or Incapacity Benefit). Each Companion receives weekly spending money from the Community - anticipated to be around £33 - and a further £5 put aside each week to provide Companions with some money when they leave.
A way back to work: Everyone is expected to work to the best of their ability in the business of the Community usually doing 40 hours a week. Companions get training, specific skills development, and experience of the "real world" of team working.
Self respect through being self supporting: Emmaus Glasgow will run its own business so that it is financially self-supporting. All Emmaus businesses are linked to recycling and reclamation. We expect to be involved in a number of eco-recycling businesses adapting to the skills & interests of the Companions and the local market.
Shared responsibility facilitated by low staffing ratios: Following the example of other Emmaus's in the UK, Emmaus Glasgow will have one residential Co-ordinator and a deputy after the initial 3 - 4 months.
Few Rules: There are really only three house rules, but they are tough ones for a lot of homeless people:
- no drink, drugs or violence on site;
- sign off primary social security benefits;
- be willing to work and participate in Community Life.
Anyone infringing these rules may, after an initial warning, be asked to leave for a period. No-one is ever permanently excluded - whatever the reason for leaving, the door is always open for an individual to return at a later date.
Conditional Acceptance and Welcome: The "open door" is critically important - all Emmaus Communities are open to anyone, irrespective of gender, race or creed. We are committed to equal opportunities in all aspects of our work. All are welcome, provided space is available; self-referral is very common. The conditions make Emmaus a difficult choice, not an easy option.
No limitation on length of stay: The "open door" is not a revolving door; Companions are free to stay as long as they wish and to leave when they want to. Our commitment to Companions is open ended, as long-term as necessary.
Access to proper health-care: All Emmaus Communities have established links to local medical practices or health centre. Anyone living in an Emmaus Community, whether specifically receiving treatment for an alcohol or drug dependency problem or not, will have access to proper health care.
Involvement in the project: All Companions are actively involved in the day to day running of the Community. Companions are encouraged to take responsibility and to be involved in the decision-making process through regular Community meetings of all Companions and the Co-ordinators.
Sharing: All Emmaus Communities live by the belief that they should help those worse off than themselves. Solidarity through sharing surpluses or working in the wider local community are practical examples of the Emmaus way of life.
All Companions will receive a set of Companion Guidelines, in line with Emmaus UK's operating manual which explain their rights, roles and responsibilities. More crucially the guidelines set out how the day-to-day running of the community works, and its decision processes. Communities are, as far as possible self-governing.
The Companions are more partners than employees. The work they do generates revenue which, together with the rent received for the accommodation, enables each Community to become self-financing. All cash for food, heating, clothing as well as spending money and allowances are paid out of the revenue generated by the project. Companions have occupancy agreements following the models set out by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. This reflects the flexibility in tenure that Emmaus Companions benefit from.
"We are not wasters. We do have a heart. We deserve a chance to prove that we are not what we seem to be beggars and thieve we are just human beings like the rest of the world."
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