During four years as a volunteer running a weekly lending library at a night-shelter, which offered accommodation and rehabilitation to homeless men, the experience was that those who moved on to supported housing returned after a few months, if not earlier, unless they found work. They would begin to drink too much because of loneliness and boredom and eventually be unable to pay their dues.
The only organisation which appeared to work was the Emmaus Community.
The headquarters in Cambridge had the preferred option: residential, working and retail activities on the same site.
Emmaus is a secular, worldwide, social enterprise – the only organisation in which the formerly homeless are offered work as a central focus. It flourishes on the continent where it was started by the Abbé Pierre to help homeless ex-servicemen by repairing war-damaged houses for their use.
Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale – like the Betel organisation in Birmingham. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.
They go out for a drink, as others do, as long as they behave acceptably when at home. Even if they have to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.
Emmaus Communities offer homeless people a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives in a supportive environment.
There are currently twenty-four communities around the UK and several more in development.
Every town should have such a base, and more than one in large cities.