Pam, Liz and Glenn make up the Emmaus Bristol Support team. Below they describe what their job entails.
Companions’ needs are often complicated. There are practical and emotional issues to be addressed, from rebuilding identity on paper to healing and rebuilding a sense of “self” and well being within.
When a Companion first comes to live at Shaftesbury House, s/he sits down with one of the Support Team to do a Needs Assessment. Together we discuss physical needs such as registering with a doctor and dentist or liaising with agencies providing help with mental health and addiction issues.
It is surprisingly hard to live a “normal” life without means of identification, so Companions may need help with getting new copies of lost papers; birth certificates, adoption certificates, passports and so on.
They may also need help with sorting out problems from their previous life. They may have incurred debts but feel overwhelmed at the thought of tackling them. We can help them make arrangements to start repaying debts on a regular basis, or look into the pros and cons of starting bankruptcy proceedings. They may want to think about seeking reconciliation with family members or estranged children and we can help them clarify their thinking, decide on what pathway to follow and access the services they need to get them where they want to go.
We aim to meet with every Companion for at least an hour once a fortnight – more often if they ask for more.
Another very important part of the Emmaus ethos is to help Companions come to a place where they realise that they can give back to society. The founder of Emmaus, Abbe Pierre, put it like this: “You, who thought you were superfluous, who thought there was no place for you in society, not only are you not superfluous, you are needed.” Achieving this is a combined effort; as the formal Support Team we are very aware that we are just part of the bigger picture which involves input from the whole Staff Team and Companions alike.