East Sussex Homelessness May 2014

The Vicious Circle and Despondency of Homelessness

Emmaus Communities offer homeless people companionship, a place to live and work, and an opportunity to integrate back into mainstream society. Companions, as residents are known, work full time collecting renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the Community financially and enables residents to develop skills, rebuild their self-respect and help others in greater need. In return Companions receive accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance, but for many, the greatest benefit is a fresh start.

The need

CRASH has been working with Emmaus Brighton & Hove for many years supporting a number of their development projects. Theirs is a thriving community with a popular café, a main shop offering everything from beds, linen and curtains to fridges, freezers and table lamps. There is also an Emporium which houses the very best in vintage, retro, handmade and upcycled goods. Continuing with their ethos of making the best of what they’ve been given, Emmaus Brighton & Hove focused their efforts on greener things and called on CRASH for help.

The solution

The project entitled ‘Greenhouse@Emmaus’ involved the construction of a garden centre in which they will grow a range of plants, shrubs and herbs for sale. As existing building was also refurbished providing space for companions to acquire skills in horticulture.

Visitors can also get a real taste for growing their own food at ‘the greenhouse Community Food Garden’, which has been created by a team of Emmaus Companions and volunteers for growing organic seasonal produce. This aspect of the greenhouse project has educational purpose at its core.

How patrons helped

Through CRASH, the project benefited from pro-bono professional expertise from Taylor Wimpey and Stephen Wilson Partnership and discounted support from NHBC with a value of £1,159.80 as well as essential equipment in the form of a digger and a dumper from A Plant and materials from Hanson and Travis Perkins with a value of £5,015.82. Greenhouse @ Emmaus’ was also awarded a cash grant of £20,000 from CRASH.

The social impact

Brendan is a Companion at Emmaus Brighton & Hove, a homelessness project that CRASH has been involved with for a number of years.  Here is his story:

“Hi, my name is Brendan and I am an ex-homeless person and now a companion at Brighton and Hove Emmaus.

As I found out through my own experience of being homeless, it can happen very quickly and even two months before I was living on the streets I would never have believed the situation I found myself in.

My main worry at first was at night, regarding the issue of keeping myself warm and safe. But I was determined to find a job and pull myself out of the life I was living.

Unfortunately I soon found out that to get a job you need to have an address and to be able to afford to pay rent for an address you need a job.

I searched high and low for work, but found that not having an address prevented me from even applying for a job washing dishes in a hotel. This is what I call the “vicious circle of being homeless”.

This then leads to the despondency that descends on you in that each morning when you wake up (if you can call it that) you have nothing in front of you to look forward to for the rest of the day.

It felt as though you were walking down this long dark tunnel and never seeing a light at the end of it.

Fortunately, after three months of this despondency of being homeless, I was offered a place at Emmaus.

At first I was just grateful to have a warm, safe place to live in again, but the longer I was there the more I appreciated what else Emmaus has to offer.

With the structure it can bring to a person’s life, and with the support and help of the staff, you can really turn your life around and walk out of that dark tunnel and into the light a new confident person. “

“The greenhouse is a place where a love of gardening and a creative imagination meet to inspire people to have fun with recycling and look at their outdoor space in a brand new way. Promoting up-cycling and re-use is at the heart of everything we do. We love nothing more than creating something from nothing or what others might consider to be rubbish. By making things that are not only useful but beautifully unique too we hope to inspire people to really think outside of the box. Gardening is good for you on so many levels physically, mentally and emotionally. We all have space for personal growth and development and the greenhouse project is all about growing together as a community as well as individually.”

Rachael Woodgate

Project Manager of the Greenhouse

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