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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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April 09 2012
Chris Briggs. Photo ?Ǭ© Emmaus 2012 Chris Briggs. Photo ?Ǭ© Emmaus 2012
We talk to Emmaus’s new trustee, who has a past on the street

 

Chris Briggs (pictured), who was street homeless in London for eight months, has been unanimously voted onto the board of international homeless charity, Emmaus.

This is the first time an Emmaus resident - or Companion, as they are known - has been elected onto the charity’s UK board, since its inception 20 years ago. Chris has been with Emmaus (pronounced e-MAY-us) for two years, first in South Lambeth and now in Brighton.

He had worked in hospitality and co-owned a café and then a delicatessen. But when Chris’s second business failed, he spent time living street homeless, before reading about Emmaus in The Pavement. He told us: “I actually joined Emmaus because of The Pavement magazine. I picked it up in the day centre and read a feature about Emmaus South Lambeth. I was amazed that such a thing existed. The Pavement was a life-saver.”

There are 22 Emmaus Communities across the UK, with a further 14 planned. Emmaus provides full time work, a home and a supportive environment for homeless men and women. Companions work collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture. This in turn supports the Emmaus community, who receive accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance.

Companions must agree to sign off Job Seekers Allowance and work. Those with drug and alcohol dependencies must be willing to overcome their addictions, as using and drinking are not permitted in Emmaus Communities.

Mathieu Delarue is also a board member for Emmaus Brighton. In 1995 he was a Companion too. Delarue explains what drives his work with the charity: “The best thing about it is helping others to realise their potential. So many homeless people have so much potential and so much to offer - and we see people grow and develop. We do see it in action.” He says Chris’s hard work within the organisation showed his abilities and recommended him for the board.

Opportunities exist for other residents to get involved with running Emmaus too, now that Chris has set a precedent. Delarue says: “Actively recruiting from within the ranks is great and it’s good to have a recognised route upwards for Companions.”

Starting work on the board has been a new challenge for Chris, who says: “Other board members have been extremely welcoming and very supportive. I’ve been given a mentor who is not involved with Emmaus, who is helping me come in as an ‘outsider’. I also have a trustee ‘buddy’ on the board who I can talk to. So I feel really supported. I’m going on a training course next week too.”

The prospect of helping others motivates Chris. He says: “The best thing is the fact that I am paving the way for future Companions to also join the UK board and to show that there is more to being an Emmaus Companion than moving furniture and working in the shop. You can have a say in running the whole organisation.”

If you’d like to contact Emmaus, you can phone 01223 379271 or email them at contact@emmaus.org.uk

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