Homelessness London Apr 2014

Steve’s Story Shows How CRASH’s Help Continues to Make a Difference

The Emmaus Greenwich Community offers homeless people a realistic and sustainable alternative to life on the streets. It provides individuals with a safe home, suitable work and the chance to regain a sense of self-worth and independence.

The need

Companions, as homeless people in Emmaus Communities are called, work in the Community’s reuse and recycling business; collecting, refurbishing and selling donated household goods. Increasingly, this is how the Community supports itself and strives to become self-financing.

The solution

To support their ambitions, CRASH helped Emmaus Greenwich build a large single storey side extension to the shop to create more retail space for the companions achieve their growth objectives.

How patrons helped

CRASH Patrons AECOM and EC Harris gave professional advice free of charge whilst ACO, British Gypsum and Altro donated materials. A total grant of £50,000 was given to the project which was matched by Emmaus Greenwich by raising the other 50% of funds needed.

The social impact

Due to the success of this development, Emmaus has been able to increase the number of companions they are able to help one of whom is Steve. Here is his story:

“I was at Emmaus Greenwich for five and a half years. Before that I had my own house where I lived with my partner. I became homeless after the relationship broke up. I lost my home and went to a night shelter in Watford.

“At the shelter they slung us out at eight in the morning and we couldn’t go back until seven at night. There was nothing to do between eight and seven. I just wandered around town, went to the library and the park – this was winter and so I had to find somewhere warm. Day centres are only open from 10 o’clock to half past two, which means that there were still several hours when I had nowhere to go. That is what makes Emmaus different – you can be here all of the time and have work to do.

“I moved out of Emmaus Greenwich in March 2009 and got a job at the Post Office. There was a period of about two months when I was still living in the community, but working out of it at my new job. I was very glad to be able to do it in this way because it allowed me to get used by slow degrees to the concept of living and working outside the community. Unfortunately, after a couple of years the work was farmed out to agencies instead of being done via the Post Office and I lost my job.

“I couldn’t find anything else, and I didn’t want to just be stuck claiming benefits. The people here looked out for me again, there was no shame in coming back though it was hard to adapt back the other way again after I had got used to having my own space. I mostly work in the shop, and I enjoy interacting with customers. Maybe in the future I’ll move on again, but for now I’m just working hard and keeping busy.”

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