Homeless charity goes green

Photo: ITV News Meridian

Former homeless people who have established a community supported by a social enterprise are to open a new project as they celebrate the scheme's 16th birthday.

Emmaus Brighton & Hove is to open The Greenhouse at Emmaus, a community garden project, centre and shop which will focus on creative up-cycling, gardening and "all things green".

Since Emmaus Brighton & Hove was established in February 1997, it has created a successful social enterprise which gives homeless people a place to live and work, on proviso they sign off benefits and commit to following the rules of the community. People who accept the offer become known as companions.

In Brighton, companions run a secondhand superstore, a retro and vintage shop Emporium At Emmaus, plus community cafe Revive At Emmaus, The Goodwill Co-op and Ordinary To Extra Ordinary brands of handmade gifts and funky up-cycled furniture.

The Greenhouse At Emmaus will open on March 23, more than 60 years after the Emmaus way was first started.

In Paris 1951, Abbe Pierre resigned as a French MP to devote himself to fighting homelessness and poverty. He had relied on his salary to pay for the 18 men who had formed the first Emmaus Community and who were building homes for those who desperately needed them.

But when Mr Pierre courted donations to pay for his endeavour, the first companions were outraged and said it constituted begging. Instead, to raise the money they needed, they became rag pickers, collecting things that people no longer wanted and selling them on.

The idea of self-sufficiency became the bedrock of Emmaus. In the UK, there are now 24 communities offering 580 spaces, with Brighton & Hove the largest of the groups. There are some 313 communities around the world.