In the decade since we first opened we have achieved our core aim of establishing a home and work for 23 previously homeless people. Support for the project has been from a very diverse number of funding and grant making bodies including private donations, company donations and a huge number of private individuals.
Emmaus Bristol is a member of the worldwide Federation of Emmaus Communities. The aim of Emmaus is to turn charity on its head. It not only offers homeless people the opportunity to help themselves, but to help others – it is the latter which allows the rediscovery of a sense of purpose in life.
The following is an extract from the account by Abbe Pierre of the birth of the Emmaus Movement in post-war France: “… The first Companions? They came because they were broken or in despair. It was as simple as that. The first Companion was a failed suicide. Twenty years earlier he had killed his father in a moment of desperate anger. Pardoned after twenty years of hard labour, he had returned to an unbearable family situation. He tried to kill himself. I was called to help. But when I spoke to him, I could tell that he was not listening. There was only one thought in his mind, and that was to try again and this time not to fail his suicide. That’s when Emmaus was born. Because, without thinking, without premeditation, I did the opposite of charity. Instead of saying: “You are miserable, I will give you a roof over your head, work and money”, circumstances made me do exactly the opposite. I could only say, because it was the truth: “You are desperately unhappy. And I have nothing to give you. I have already given away my own family fortune. As a Member of Parliament, I am not poor because I am paid a parliamentary allowance. But I have nothing but debts. All my money is spent before I even receive it, to repair the house and to lodge those in need. Look this is where I live, dividing my life between Parliament, my constituency in Lorraine and the reception and maintenance of my Hostel. I am tired and can’t respond to all these calls for help. But you, because you want to die, there is nothing holding you back. So please, wouldn’t you like to help me to help others?”
That was the birth of Emmaus.
At a time of continued homelessness in this country and tragedy and destruction elsewhere in the world, Emmaus is as relevant today as ever.