Why Emmaus UK is Nothing But a Modern Day Workhouse

I've just paid a visit to Emmaus Portslade. After a sudden 'recall' by Fiat, my car was at a garage in the area having the ABS fixed because, apparently, due to the problem of "salt and water getting in to the ABS system", my car could have exploded at any time during the last five years. Sobering stuff, eh?

Nearby was an Emmaus Community so I popped in and took a look around at the furniture store which used to be a consecrated chapel and had some beans on toast in their unconsecrated cafe. If you don't know anything about Emmaus a charity supporting homeless people, I'll give you a general introduction lifted from the Emmaus website.


'The first Emmaus Community was founded in Paris in 1949 by Father Henri-Antoine Groues, better known as the Abbé Pierre, a Catholic priest, MP and former member of the French Resistance during the Second World War. As an MP, he fought to provide homes for those who lived on the streets of Paris'

'Emmaus Communities spread across France, as the Abbé Pierre brought the horrors faced by the poor to the world's attention. One January day in 1954 the Abbé Pierre learnt that the baby of a homeless couple had frozen to death in the night. Some days later he heard that an old woman had died of hypothermia on the streets having been evicted from her home. Angered by these needless deaths, Abbé Pierre sent an open letter to newspapers and made a radio appeal to the nation. It turned Emmaus into a major international charity. The French public responded and gifts and support flooded in. Emmaus Communities opened across France. Abbé Pierre became an international figure and travelled the world spreading the word about Emmaus, causing Communities to be established in mainland Europe, French West Africa, the Far East and South America. Each one retains the ideals of the first Communities - giving people the chance to support themselves and help others.'

All very good and laudable. So, don't get me wrong when I say what I'm about to say. The work of Emmaus in the UK at combatting homelessness and helping people find their feet in life is highly successful. The founder of Emmaus, who we know now as Abbe Pierre, I believe, was a man of heroic virtue who follows in a rich long line of Franciscan Priests who dedicated their energy, life, work, skills, talents and love to the abandoned, the dispossessed and homeless.

Founder of Emmaus, Abbe Pierre
However, after my visit to the Emmaus Community in Portslade, I was struck by a couple of things that run entirely contrary to the spirit of the founder and, more importantly to the very Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel that he embraced and preached with great fervour (click here for a rather good interview with Abbe Pierre).

I talked to one of the 'companions' there, I shaln't give the name. A 'companion' is a volunteer who lives and works in the community. I asked the companion how they were. The companion said 'okay'. I asked how long the companion had been there. The companion said '3 months'. I asked whether they enjoyed the work. The companion said, "Well, it is either this or the streets," which, I thought immediately, was not exactly a glowing endorsement of Emmaus. I found it rather disturbing, since men have been known to have said the same thing about prison.

So, we talked a little and I discovered that Emmaus in the UK require that the 'companions', a name for those who decide to live there, having been referred by hostels or local councils, give up their benefits (JSA/Income Support/DLA etc) in order to live there in a safe community for the vulnerable and homeless. In return, they are provided with accommodation, obviously, a room, a shower, heating and, I think and certainly hope, food.

I asked this particular 'companion' how many hours they worked a week. The companion answered that they work a week of 9am - 5pm, 5 days a week. There is a mixture of tasks, some are drivers, collecting unwanted goods from donors around Brighton, Hove and the surrounding area. Some are working in the kitchen. Some are cleaning, gardening, doing a bit of labouring, furniture restoration and the rest. It is a big house and I'd imagine it needs quite some work on it. The companions all work a 9-5 job and get two days off a week.

"Gosh," I said, "I hope they pay you for working 9am - 5pm, five days a week?"  Afterall, as Catholics, we all know that to defraud the poor, or to deny the labourer his wages is a sin crying out to Heaven for vengeance.
 "Yes," she said, "I receive £38 a week."
I looked at the companion, having done a very quick calculation in my head and said, "That's really not very much money at all."
It was then that the companion said, "I know...but it is either this or the streets."

Stay with me on this one and hear me out. Apparently, 'companions' do receive £49 a week after the first year but for the first year only £38. Now, I understand that in becoming a 'companion' with Emmaus, many homeless men and women find refuge, strength and a great sense of community where once there was none. In many ways it continues to fulfill the mission of its founder.

The great injustice of Emmaus, however, is that the 'companions', all poor, many destitute and homeless, in agreeing to live there and work hard for the community for seemingly between 77p and £1 an hour, make a commitment, of almost Franciscan proportions, to voluntary poverty. Not only do they do this, but many do so, not out of a desire to wed Lady Poverty and live in community, but because they have been referred there by councils and life in inner city hostels, or indeed the street, is utterly intolerable. Emmaus is a way out of a vicious cycle. In other words, some are living there because it is a good and healthy place to be and others are living and working there because they feel they have no other choice. I couldn't help thinking that Emmaus is, in fact, a modern poorhouse, a kind of workhouse for the poor and, in a way, a kind of slavery.

"How many people move on from Emmaus and re-establish themselves in the community?" I asked one of the workers there, a staff member, who, I believe, is paid a standard wage.

"Well, we're not really about 'moving people on'", he answered, "We work together as a community."
'Uh-huh,' I thought, 'You work together as a community but you get paid about £20,000 a year while they work for 77p an hour.'
I wish I said that, but instead I asked, "But some workers here are paid formally, have an annual wage, right?"
"Yes," he said, "Some workers here are paid an annual wage".
"I have a couple of friends who are homeless," I said, "What chance they could be referred here?"
He answered, "We have a long waiting list here, at least 12 people are waiting to get in here. Maybe he could try another Emmaus in the country."

Indeed, their waiting list is long. People are desperate to get out of the hostels hamster wheel that comes from being homeless in Brighton. However, it doesn't look good for those who are waiting to get in to Emmaus, since, once there, few of the homeless actually leave. Given that some staff, as you can see from the screenshot of their 'jobs' section, are on a good salary and the homeless are on 77p - £1 an hour, it struck me that Emmaus are manning something of a workhouse for the poor.

The homeless have been given a purpose there, sure, something we all crave, perhaps even institutionalised there. Many people struggle to live on the 'outside world'. To live in a Community, even if it means working all day and nearly all week long for peanuts, can be quite appealing if you find it hard to cope in wider society.

Unfortunately, however, there appeared to be a blindness among the 'companions' about there existing anything in between being a companion at Emmaus and sleeping in inner city hostels or sleeping rough. The two companions that I talked to seemed to have forgotten entirely about the idea of independent living - like, you know - having a flat or having a flatshare, or building a life outside of Emmaus, but, then again, how easy would it be to save up for a deposit for a flat or a flatshare outside of the Community and live independently, when you receive £38 - £49 a week? I mean, at Emmaus you may have most things paid for, but you'd need that 'pocket money' to buy toiletries, clothes, a bit of food, top up your mobile and all the rest. How would you get out of there once you'd recovered, found your feet and go out and meet the love of your life and settle down with someone or build a relationship with someone, or put roots down in a town and all the rest of the things we take for granted?

After all, if a homeless charity is there to do anything, it is to 'serve first the one who suffers most', as the founder said. One 'companion' said, "It is either this or St Patrick's Nightshelter". St Patrick's is a nightshelter which hit the news locally because the Anglican vicar who founded it and his family appeared to be driving around in Ferraris and were all conveniently trustees of the Lorica St Patrick's Trust, leading some to accuse the vicar who then fled Brighton and its local news reporters, of "tramp-farming".

A workhouse in Victorian Britain
I understand why the 'companion' expressed no desire to leave Emmaus, since his experience of life on the outside world has, I expect, been traumatising, but isn't helping the homeless to regain their strength, confidence, self-esteem and independence in order to live life to the full, in the wider community itself, rather than in a separated community running along the same principles as a workhouse, exactly what a homeless charity should be doing?

One would have thought so, but perhaps not. The great sin of Emmaus, or rather the terrible sin of those who run it, is not just that they get the homeless to work for 77p an hour, but that they refuse to work for the same wage themselves. The paid workers of the community no longer live in solidarity with the poorest, something that the founder, a Franciscan at heart, most certainly did do. Emmaus continue to claim to be running 'communities' across the UK, yet if it is truly a community, then why are some men and women on £15,000 - £37,000 a year or more and some men and women working for less than £1 an hour. Where is the justice in that? There is none - it is a shocking scandal and crime against Justice that Emmaus can any longer even claim to be a charity working for the poorest.

Charlatans! For, as you can see, the screenshot image which headlines this blog post shows that Emmaus, who do indeed take the housing benefits of the homeless who live there for their, ahem, "running costs", are able to pay some of their dedicated staff relatively well. What is the chance of any of the 'companions', the very poor, the vulnerable homeless, getting a job with Emmaus for £25,000 - £37,000 a year? I don't know, but possibly not that good!

That is why I came away from Emmaus rather disturbed and concerned. There is something strange about the Emmaus Community in Portslade. People come to their cafe from around the local, surrounding area. Many of those who come to visit, walk around the gardens, have food and coffee in the cafe and look at some second hand furniture are wealthy - substantially more wealthy than those who are doing the labour. And yet, Emmaus's cafe is an inversion of the Gospel. It is anti-Christ. Perhaps, once the founder of these inspiring movements die (yes, often they are Catholic Priests) it does not take long to be secularised and its mission to be distorted, de-Christianised, worldly, superficial and even usurped by the Devil. After all, the consecrated chapel is now a furniture shop. Even the little grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Bernadette is overgrown with weeds and ivy, left unattended. Abbe Pierre's mission was to serve the poorest, save souls and preach the Gospel.

And yet, there, at Emmaus, the poor serve the rich food and drink, for next to nothing in return. According to Our Blessed Saviour, it is not the calling of the poor to serve the rich for the love of God, as slave masters presumably justified their unjust employment arrangements, but the rich who are called to serve the poor for the love of God. Furthermore, if you are going to set up a charity, a community of people willing to be full-time volunteers in serving the poorest, it really is rather important that that policy goes for all workers - not one policy for the homeless workers and another policy for the other, 'real' workers! Otherwise, it is a con, a fraud, a sham charity that has betrayed its mission and now works not to serve the poor but to defraud the poor of their wages while others live off what rightfully belongs to them! I wonder what the Director of Emmaus UK is paid annually? I'm quite sure it wasn't Abbe Pierre who set up the wage structure!

Once you call yourself a charity, you see, you can get away with just about anything. Just look at Marie Stopes International. They're a charity and they get away with murder.

Comments

Chris H said…
I think that was one of the deepest posts I've ever seen on this blog! Excellent and thought provoking.
second opinion said…
i don't think you've taken into account contributions towards their meals and charges for utility bills (electric, gas, water etc) as well as other costs eg council tax contributions.
as you know housing benefit does not include payments towards any of the above plus charges towards support staff would need to be paid by the service users as this is not covered by housing benefit. if 24 hour staffing is provided then this could also add up to be quite a substantial amount.
rather than casting stones without the benefit of the full facts, why don't you direct emmaus to your article and ask for a reply.
it can be quite surprisng how these extra costs and charges can add up and may account for why the money in the service users pay packets appear to be so little.
if you are right in what you claim then these people are being paid less than minimum wage which would be illegal, and therefore could be challenged. i doubt very much that a charity would break the law especially if they accept referrals from the local council who would (should?) have checked these things out before agreeing to work in partnership with the charity.

i would be interested in hearing a follow-up to this story. indeed, i think you have a moral responsibility to check the full facts out properly before making your assertions which appear to be founded on little else than hearsay and assumptions.
Blog Reviewer said…
Hi Laurence,
can I just make a comment about your new look website, it's absolutely terrible!!!

It takes ages to load and scrolling down is very clunky, some of the pictures overlap with the commentary so that either you can't read it or you can't click on the links for comments.

I'm guessing you readership figures have really dropped because to be quite honest it's so irritating it's not worth the effort.

Why not simplify your blog again and make it more user friendly. I don't know if you've had any other complaints?
No, yours is the first, blog reviewer. I looked at my blog at another computer today and it came up fine.

Maybe think of getting a new computer?

Second Opinion, I'm only relaying what I was told by the companions and the staff. I'm not challenging the wage - I'm challenging the hypocrisy of one wage rule for the homeless and another for those who are not homeless.

I used to work for ATD Fourth World in London. Everyone was on the same wage - from the National Co-ordinator down - the wage only went up if you had children to look after, feed, educate, the rest. That, too, was founded by a Catholic Priest. The wage was low but everyone knew where they stood - it was fair - and totally voluntary.
Richard said…
Dear Laurence,

It's a bit more complicated than £1/hour vs £27,000 (about £13/hour).

The homeless workers seem to get their wage PLUS accomodation, food, heating, electric, support, etc. etc. Yes some of that is paid for through their benefits, but probably not all. However the outside workers don't seem to get that, so have to pay for their living costs (and possibly support their families) out of their salary, as well as paying tax on it.

So what you'd need is a rough value of the non-cash benefits that the homeless workers get, and add that on to the £1 per hour. Then take the tax off the outside worker's salary. Then compare the two.

I suspect it still won't be equal, but at least we'll know how unequal.

Of course that still leaves your other concerns, that this organisation no longer seems to be operating as a community.
second opinion said…
you seem to have missed the point lorrie, you have an obligation to check the actual facts rather than relying on unproven hearsay and assumptions before putting up your story. not to do so is to be the cause of scandal and is a SIN.
The facts are they are paid diddly squat for working their nuts off.
Physiocrat said…
There is something rotten in the land.
Physiocrat said…
Laurence, I also find your blog slow to load and difficult to navigate with firefox, even though I have faster internet here than you get in Britain. And I am not spending money on a new computer. It is only 5 years old so has plenty of life left in it.
second opinion said…
Well Lozza, what can I say except you've proven that you're just shooting from the hip once again with scant regard for any reasoned thought or discussion about anything that doesn't fit in with your presumptions.

Oh and I too find your new blog layout is very un user friendly. It takes ages to load and scroll and i've got a new computer. Perhaps you should try listening to your readers for a change?
Sharon said…
Its likely that it is a work house scenario. People work a FULL week for very little even in the retail or drivers sector and the 'charity' still claims full housing benefits for each person which feeds the coffers. I've also heard that the people living there are forbidden to take on work in their spare time, regardless of their skills, to speed up the moving on process. It would seem they become institutionalized.
Lily said…
I know someone who is a companion at Emmaus. He not only works as you describe, but he does not get a lunch hour. He has to eat his lunch in the shop while on duty. He would love to leave but on the income they are paid, can never in a million years save up money to strike out on his own, on his terms. For some, Emmaus is the answer for the rest of their lives. For him, Emmaus was the answer at a crisis moment in his life but once there, its very difficult to leave without family or friends to support you while you wait for social benefits to kick in and provide for you while you look for a job. And apparently in the first year, if you do find a job elsewhere, you have to move out immediately....again....you would have to have family or friends who would let you move in with them while you build up funds for your own place. Once in Emmaus, it would take an act of charity to get out of there. Recently, the staff of ten were voted a total increase of 50 000 pounds for the forthcoming year. Companions were told that no increase would be forthcoming for them for the next 3 years.
Lily said…
Some people might think that Emmaus saves the taxpayer the benefits which companions are not allowed to draw but in fact, Emmaus receives 200 odd pounds per week per companion. A companion who makes problems in some way, is booted out on the street either as a temporary measure to teach him a lesson or permanently. One can understand the need for discipline but imagine the impact on the residents who see their friends coming and going in this way. When it happens too often, morale is low. As to expense of maintaining the Emmaus properties, its been known at at least one place of a companion systematically painting out and recarpeting the entire building for the price of his wages.
Nick said…
I'm a companion at Emmaus Brighton and have been for a number of years. I'm proud of what I do there and was quite sad to read some of the misinformation and nonsense written in this blog. 49 pounds a week might not seem like a lot of money, but please bear in mind, this is disposable income, never in my life can I remember having that much money in my pocket at the end of the week. I have to work a full week for my money and accommodation; who doesn't? As for the possibility of Emmaus employing Companions, a number of staff at Emmaus Brighton were Companions. I have considered becoming a member of staff at another community on a number of occasions, but have decided against it, as I actually like being a Companion. This does not mean that I'm not involved in the organisation, I'm a trustee of another community. Emmaus does not receive 200 pounds p/w per Companion, nothing like. The staff have not recieved a £50000 pay rise, where did you get that idea?
As for people being asked to leave, I can tell you the effect it has on other Companions, if someone is being that disruptive, we're generally glad to see the back of them for a while, this makes the Community a much safer,more settled place to live.
It is true that Emmaus can be difficult to move on from in your first year, but how many people can just up sticks and move on to a new home and job, just like that? After you've been in Emmaus a year the moving on policy is very supportive. It's true that some people are not happy in Emmaus, and use it as a way off the streets and nothing else, it doesn't suit everybody, but such is life. It is not run contrary to the intentions of Abbe Pierre, he visited twice and told us so. There is much more I could write about life at Emmaus, but I would prefer to extend an invitation to anyone who would like to visit and speak to me personally, my name is Nick Miller, and I would be happy to talk to them about life as a Companion, and give them a tour of the Community, which I'm proud to be a member of.
Lily said…
@Nick: Do the companions at ALL Emmaus centres receive 49 pounds a week? The person I know at a different centre says he receives closer to 30 pounds a week. Is he lying to gain sympathy perhaps? In the name of transparency, are you allowed to divulge exactly how much Emmaus receives per companion per week from the State? Are you allowed to divulge the AVERAGE annual salary of the staff at an Emmaus centre? Do the salaries vary from centre to centre or is it consistent across the country? I just wondered whether the salaries of staff and companions are dependent on how much slog the companions put into it or whether it is centrally funded in some way, irrespective of the success of the furniture/shop business.
Lily said…
@Nick: When a resident DOES get kicked out and suspended for months at a time, what money does he live on in the interim? Does Emmaus continue to pay him his wages while they draw his benefits? If he reclaims State benefits so he can afford to rent a room and feed himself, does Emmaus keep his room for him? And while he waits for his benefits, what does he live on if there is no family or friends to sponge off? I genuinely am interested in the answers to these questions.
Lily said…
Another thing I would like to know from anybody .....NO money is paid into the national health or pension fund for each companion. True? This obviously must affect the government pension they receive eventually in old age. Imagine leaving Emmaus after 10 years ...one would have a 10 year gap in pension contributions....is this equal to an unemployed person on benefits? Do pension contributions to national coffers cease when you are unemployed and on benefits?
intrigued said…
rent for a room in a shared house £70 per week (£3640 per year)
food costs: £25 per week (£1300 per year)
bills cost... I average about £100 a month including council tax/electric/gas/water in/water out etc considering how bills have increased (1200 per year)
Disposable income: £38 per week (£1976 per year)
Cost of staff (and as many homeless people have a history of abuse, mental illness and substance misuse it is important to have trained and experienced staff available to support the clients and keep the structure of the service running... and staff require ongoing training and this, as well as their wages cost money).

Even without the staff costs the clients are looking at receiving the equivalent of £8116 a year or £4.16 per hour and that's before we take the staffing costs into account.

The conditions of traditional work houses were appauling including chaining up the "insane", separating parents from children and never allowing them to go outside.

Many hard working people have £30-70 disposible income to live on a week after expenses and they don't have staff support 24/7

Many people who arrive at a place like emmaus have poor independent living skills and so choose to remain in the only system they have found works for them in the long term... for those in this position the staff are an important part of their recovery...

now perhaps it could be more recovery focused but the money side of things..... the minimum wage is a few quid more than the true income for these individuals and I think its safe to assume that the staff account for the difference.
Anonymous said…
I work at Emmaus and we don't work our nuts off...its a lovely laid back place to work with a friendly atmosphere. I feel very lucky. So you don't need to protect us we are happy to be here with everything we need plus lots of new friends!
Anonymous said…
Hello,
I am a companion at Emmaus Portslade,I was enraged by the article I am replying to,
It seems you are blind to the fact that companions get the equivalent of a 300 pound plus wage per week,all bills,Travel,support,Holidays,wifi,tv license,council tax,passports,driving licences,should I continue?,The fact that you chose to speak to a companion that was so new was disappointing,It takes years to understand the Emmaus movement and its intricacies.
All residents here were previously homeless and most do not posses the skills to fund hunt and coordinate a social enterprise and charity this size so we employ people who can help us with that,
You've totally missed the point,
We Choose to employ these people.
I urge you to come back and speak to a longer term companion who has the knowledge and understanding to lead you through what its really about,and please stop quoting Abbe Pierre,he was a great man from an era gone,this is a different culture and the model created here is tailored far beyond the original concept because social problems are also different,
My Name is Lee and I would be glad to meet you.
Happy Guy said…
I will stick up for Emmaus which I can speak about from first hand experience.

It is a place where people get the chance to get back on their feet.

Like any workplace there are a mix of people but the overall feel was one of camaradarie and sticking together.

So if someone is reading this who is in trouble and they are heading towards or have experienced homelessness I would definitely recommend getting in touch with Emmaus, as well as your local council, Citizens Advice Bureau, local housing associations etc

That way you can see all your options in front of you. Emmaus worked for me - if you need it I hope it works for you also.
James Reid said…
Hello my name is James Reid and I need to say that I spent 5 months at emmaus portslade and unfortunately it was a demoralising and also traumatising experience.

I found the business manager and so called 'community leader' patronising and dismissive of the companions. The cafe manager and chef's attitude I found to shocking in behaviour. I was glad to get well away from his kitchen. I decided to try my luck in Portugal! Here I am still. I feelt that I could lose my self respect like the rest of the inmates, so I left. I wish the people there all the best though, the companions that is.
I enquired about staying at Emmaus Dover. I was told that if I came to stay there I would have to give up my disability working allowance as no one there is allowed to be on any kind of benefit except for housing benefit. They have to hand over 100% of their housing benefit to the community. Sounds like good business to me.
Companion said…
I'm a "companion" traped in the Emmaus system on £41 a week. My treatment at Emmaus has brang me to the lowest point of my life. Housing benifit, £172 per week is payed on my behalf to a charity that tells us we are part of a family who cares for us but if you are to sick to work you're out. Bullies find a perfect home at Emmaus becuase here you can hide behind charity work and faith while pointing out those you select as victims don't support the community enough.
If someone spends 15 years as a "companion"(it happens) that's alot of missing national insurance contributions when you're older.
I would like to thank the companion above 29/08/ 2015 23:22 for that information. £172 pw? The Lha ("Local housing allowance") housing benefit in other words in portslade would be something like £80 pw. Presumably this is paid for "care". What care? I was never able to get into any British Emmauses', but I stayed in 5 of them in France and I would say that the low opinion of them held by the socially progressive in France is entirely justified.
david said…
i work for emmaus the support companions get is second to none..ive seen a lot of positive move ons to employment university etc..there is a lot of rubbish written in these comments i would like to add the emmaus i work for has employed former companions to staff.The companions who have been there a long while give it all week in week out..are not pressured are not bullied into working they do it because the community is there extended family and they are happy..forty quid might not seem a lot but they get food board and safety which is important as not all are able to move on to other things.
Unknown said…
PLEASE SHARE THIS IS WORTH A READ HOW OUR VENERABLE ADULTS R BEING TREATED WORSE THEN RATS
EMMAUS WINCHESTER
This story needs to be told, its contents shared and
Emmaus Hampshire claims to support people who are homeless, and offers accommodation and purpose within its business ventures to improve skills and (for those who want to) strategies to ‘move forward’ to secure accommodation and employment. Its concept is brilliant, but the reality for many is disappointment and frustration, as they get trapped and sadly, for some are worse for the experience of their stay at Emmaus. This just can’t be right!
The offer of ‘meaningful work’ as well as a ‘stable home’ sound great, but again for many, it becomes something more akin to ‘slave labour’ (without meaning), and less of a home, but more an institution, not dissimilar to the prison that a number of residents had come to Emmaus from!
Emmaus was founded by a French Priest (Abbe Pierre), who took in refugees after the Second World War, and when his house was full he challenged the residents (now known as ‘Companions’) to contribute to the upkeep of his home, and this became the first Emmaus Community, as the first residents recycled furniture and sold their reclaimed wares. This simple concept, became a successful ‘Business Model’, which has now been replicated across the World, and is now an International Movement. Abbe Pierre then went on to be a Member of Parliament in France, and is acknowledged now as one of their great altruists and ‘Sons’, known as their ‘beloved Abbe Pierre’. The Emmaus Movement grew from that point, and is most prominent in France with some 250 Communities, but now established in most corners and Countries across the World. The first UK Community was established in Cambridge, some 25 years ago, and there are now at least 30 Communities across the UK (with 7 in planning stage).
Emmaus Hampshire is part of this exciting International Solidarity Movement, which is unlike any other, Made up of thousands of companions whose work is motivated by a simple sentence: `serve first those who suffer most`. It it made up of companions from all different aspects of life.
Emmaus Winchester was run by a former prison officer, in which some have said and experienced that she ‘didn’t leave her keys at the prison gates’, acting with an authoritarian manner more akin to her former Prison Officer role, than that more expected of a Supportive Community Leader, where more compassion, humanity, support and understanding would have appropriate.
During her tenure (she has since left ‘under a mysterious cloud’) she made her stamp, ruling with a controlling, bullying attitude. Even in a hurry she would say to the fellow companions such things as “hurry up and finish, some of us have homes to go to.” And also indulging with alcohol, in her Community flat – despite a clear ‘no alcohol’ policy. Blatant fragrancy of rules, that she so hypocritically imposed on others, including, for some, eviction.
Sheila Allder said…
'Hotel California' somehow comes to mind.......
Shaolinfingajab said…
I was, until today a companion at Glasgow Emmaus. I would like to say your blog is spot on.

Glasgow Emmaus makes an annual turn over of 500,000 per year and is making record profits, the companions are paid an even lower wage than what is mentioned (£32 per week)

The general Manager is rude and obnoxious to the companions and the staff in general are very condesending and look down upon the companions. Only the "in crowd" of companions get extra help and offered jobs as staff on a high wage, while some companions have been there over 8 years and are on just £37 per week.

The place is a scam and needs exposing as such so the people who donate, know exactly who they are donating to. I have a feeling if they knew exactly what goes on in Emmaus and what they are donating their furniture to, the donations would dry up. Which is what needs to happen. They rely on donations of furniture, clothing and toys from the public, which then gets sold on to run the community.

The fact they get well over £110 for each companion is supposed to be forgotten about, or never asked about.

If someone seems as if they know too much, or ask too many questions, the companions are usually victimised by the staff in way of verbal or written warnings about their behavior.

The "companions" are living with the threat of being thrown out back on the street as a punishment for not "playing along" and move on plans are only for the staffs favorite companions. (which goes against their ethos that not one companion should be better than another and all companions are equal.)

They dangle a carrot in front of new companions with promises of help further along down the line. (driving licenses, passports, training to find work, housing) and use this to keep the companions working hard for them.

Later when the things promised are due, they make excuses for why the companion doesnt deserve what they were promised. (written warnings for obscure things, any reason they can find.)

Some of the companions are there for years, because they are institutionalised and have come to rely on everything being done for them.

The staff actually spend most of their day playing table tennis in the storage area of Emmaus Glasgow, when the care inspectorate of Scotland come to visit and inspect the place, they make sure anyone who might blow the whistle as to what goes on there are out working on the vans, and choose a select few companions to speak to the care commission inspectors.

You will find alot of people in Emmaus, are brain washed by them. It is much akin to a cult. I have a feeling if the care inspectorate were at some of the morning meetings, they would withdraw from being anything to do with them.

Trust me, if you are homeless, Emmaus may seem like a good idea. but for the short term, it really is not worth it. They will patronise and condensend you and take away any self worth you had left.

I've just had a quick glance at what you're saying and I agree with you 100%.
I've been in 5 Emmauses in France and two in The Netherlands and I think its about time that I gave an account of my experiences. The best one I was in was the first one, which was in Den Hague. It was run and supported by social activists and everyone was treated with complete equality. They employed one full time worker, but her duties were exactly the same as the companions. The place was really run by a middle aged couple with two young daughters who only recieved the normal companions allowance of 40€ a week. They were all athiests there but it was the only emmaus where I saw a painting of Christ appearing before two homeless men and pointing them the way to emmaus.
The last and the worst was in Utrecht which is also in the Netherlands. There I discovered a disturbing new trend. Companions no longer live in and receive no allowance or any food apart from coffees. I only worked for them for an afternoon and it was gruelling work.
"...If you can bear to hear the truth you've
spoken twisted by knaves to set a trap for fools..."
Poor old Abbe Pierre must be turning in his grave.

▶ Show quoted text
Anonymous said…
RoughSleeper

I can't subscribe because the page crashes, so here goes to posting from here.

Thankyou so much for writing this on our behalf. I posted on Notts Post about their disrespect for us, and I got murdered by their trolls purposing to be a 'companion'.

Emmaus are not unique in abusing us to make money for salaries. I have posted continuously on the Guardian, and Disqus, among many, about this subject, but even the Guardian doesn't listen.

We get left on the streets to make more emotion & money from the public, and our deaths there are an added bonus, for more of both.

I think that you, and others, will benefit some further knowledge on this subject, if you follow my links.

I post on most UK papers on RoughSleeping, but some don't allow you to click on the avatar, to get to all stories posted there. These do:

disqus http://tinyurl.com/petkx4l
theguardian http://tinyurl.com/q3zya7g
nottinghampost http://tinyurl.com/omcgsf9
dropbox http://tinyurl.com/o7du4sk
newshub http://tinyurl.com/n9cggpc


Thanks again for writing this in support of us.

PS

On a related issue:

I am trying to get this advice footer into every 'RoughSleeping' story, so that everyone sees it:

At Xmas, when giving food to us, please put it in the polystyrene takeaway boxes, then re microwave it, so that it stays piping hot while we eat it. Nothing worse than freezing food, done as a flat artistic pattern, on a freezing flat plate, in the freezing wind and rain, at Xmas.

Unlike the ‘Homeless’ we don’t have facilities to re heat it.

When it is cold, we want food that burns our mouths.

God bless.

(9.0960 x 10K hours expertise, Boots on the ground, 3790 Days, @ 1.4828 pence/day) @ http://tinyurl.com/o7du4sk
The Bones said…
A recent 'companion', now no longer at Emmaus alleged that Emmaus (Brighton) has 7 million in the bank.

Allegedly.

She claimed she was sacked for stealing £5 from the cash till.

Which she didn't take.
Unknown said…
I currently live in the emmaus community in Burnley and I think this place is an absolute joke. I came here having hitting a bad patch in my life, my relationship has broken down and I've lost my job plus I have had to leave my home becoming homeless. I came to emmaus thinking I would get on my feet and be out but instead I'm threatened with being thrown out and I want to kill myself. The food is being served by a drug addict so I don't eat I have to clean the full house that houses 30+ inmates each day 9-5 for 35 quid a week while emmaus claim 170 a week in housing benefits. They say work is voluntary but you get your "wage" docked for not working or if you don't wash up. They get 170 a week plus 40 hours from each companion... how is that fair??
bite that hand that helps you said…
I can only say the emmaus i know has high quakty caring staff and the fact companians get 35 pounds per week has to be levied against..safe home..food..free tv.free support. etc..housing benefit means nothing if you cant afford to live after getting it.

some people seem to think you should get the housing food etc for nothing.grow a pair and thk the emmaus charity..its colder on the streets
yeah you work for it..better than drinking special brew or frosty jack from dusk till dawn
suck it upthey are helping not hindering
anonymous said…
I have been a companion in Emmaus in 3 different ones and the people who run them get there accommodation free with the job they also eat the same food is the Companions free they also get the use of company cars which are abused I knew one co manager who used to take the car on holiday for a week which isn't really within the rules if you do something that they don't like they ban you from leaving outside of work hours i.e they greyhound you they work you like dogs treat you like dirt as if you beneath them and also the housing benefit amount when I was living there that was paid for each companion amounted to I think it was something like 200 something pounds per week I think it's disgusting and I think it really needs to be looked into officially at the Cheltenham shop which is based on the Gloucester Emmaus organisation there was a couple from South Africa who ran the Enterprise and they used to steal all the Wedgewood and antique that would donated and keep them for themselves there were also racist Emmaus UK is a joke Anita is abused I would also like to reveal that they make a very very very substantial amount of money enough to pay the Companions more than they do it is modern day slavery labour
leon said…
Hello all i was a companion at an emmaus,companions need to be aware of the offer of passports driving tests college etc..it all comes out of there leaving funds not emmaus help.I had this bad experience after leaving them.i advise any of my companions out there to ask a question before any carrot is thrown to you..do i have to pay this money back.
Niall Martin said…
I live at an Emmaus community. A year or so ago I was diagnosed as a paranoid schitzophrenic. Not only have they taken this into account, they allow for my "foibles" which consist of not being available for work for arbitrary periods of time. I've worked in the commercial sector - they can't use me because I am inherently unreliable. Emmaus can use me and they do. Not only do I have a solid roof above my head, but my skills as an IT techinician are needed and valued. I also test electrical goods and am involved in recycling. It's the best job I have ever had bar none. Emmaus might not be for everybody, but it's for me, I've found my niche here and my opinion matters. I don't mind that I only get £42 week, I also get paid holidays and the occasional unexpected bonus and travel paid frequently. I'm doing a LOT better than I would be on the dole. Has the writer of the article ever been homeless?
Anonymous said…
The community I live in we get £30 a week. Never felt this depressed in my life. ITS SICKENING :L
AngryCompanion said…
I get £32 a week in my community, WE WORK OUR BUTTS OFF YET WE GET POCKET MONEY INSTEAD OF THE WORKING WAGE ??? Its sickening to the point my depression is getting worse. Im having to book the doctors next week so I can stop these suicidal thoughts out my head.
Tracey said…
I work at a completely different homeless hostel. It is supported 24 hours. Is an abstinence project. Breakfast dinner tea and supper plus showers, bath, washing machine and drier...all in the deal. How are we paid? Housing benefit plus £76 per fortnight rent. They receive benefits. They usually have zero money. This is because they choose to spend it as they desire. If a person decided to spend it all at the bookies that is completely their choice. However, we provide training on how to live independently. We support people to access all the things others take for granted that homeless people do not feel able to access. Gp and Gp referrals, dentists, working with drug and alcohol team, getting counselling, establishing routine and sense in their lives. Many have no idea about life routine. Emmaus provide a work week routine. You do not have experience clearly. People who find themselves somewhere to shelter and get back on their feet are hopeful. Would you instead able to take people to live in your home? Have you an alternative? Why are you making people christlike?
Anonymous said…
Dave ....I was a companion at Emmaus in fact I have been at 5 of them and I think this article is spot on. I have read all the things defending emmaus and I feel that the thing everyone seems to miss is the fact that what companions contribute to emmaus is not only housing benefit which varies from 500 to over 800 a month but the profits made from the work they do which can be viewed on their own website's. The wages staff recieve in some cases is in excess of 50.000 a year the companions are looked down on and treated as second class..I really would advise anyone who doubts this to have a look at figures posted on emmaus websites. The whole thing is designed to use the poor to feed the rich. Also if you are in a community at the moment and you think emmaus is helping you you've fallen for all their lies it's almost brainwashing people into believing they are helping them
After tons of research Emmaus UK are authoritarians, its a gateway into totalitarianism.
Matt P said…
I'm a companion at Emmaus (note companion, not the loaded and inaccurate 'inmate' that spme have used here). This article seems to have missed the point. And worse, is a knee jerk reaction full of mistruths and incorrect assumptions. I've lived and worked at two communites and have visited and worked temporarily at 3 others (Driving for one and living there for a month when they had a bout of sickeness and no drivers, for example)

Overall the staff (Paid employees) are considerate, friendly, fair and often go out of thier way to help companions. (I am sure that as in any other industry or group, you would find a few bad apples. But one shouldnt allow that minority to vcolour your view of the entire federation.

As others have mentioned here, the finances arent as straight forward as 'those people work all week and only get a few quid", included is 4 weeks paid holiday a year, including travel money. Fully furnished accomadation with the option to select and replace with furniture from the ever-changung stock should we prefer a different wardrobe or table etc, heating, power, food and drink (Not alchohol of course, one of the key rules is no alchohol on the premesis. Many people are fihting substance abuse and that rule keeps Emmaus a safe and supportive haven in that regard), clothing, toiletries, use of community vehicles when available, we are also eligible for free prescriptions and dental health care (Just as when unemployed). We are also regularly encouraged to apply for Companion Training Fund grants from Emmaus UK, these can be for Passports, Driving lessons, Job based skills (to assist with moving on) Deposits and advanced rent for flats. As well as being given support in learnign essential life skills such as cooking, looking after oneself, budgeting to survive etc. One of the wonderful things about Emmaus is it provides a home, a family (of a sort) and personal support for as long or as short a time as you need it!

Continued..
Matt P said…
...continued (Character limit)

Regarding the housing benefit figures quoted here, each community is in it's own unique situation, so one helping vulnerable adults that need additional support may well get higher than 'normal' housing benefit rates, in the same way that a supported housing unit or warden-monitored setup may. But I can assure you the community I am a part of now recieve the basic single persons benefit of approximately £80 per week

You should also note that the majority of paid staff's salaries come from charitable arms of big business. My first Emmaus recieved 3 years salary from a charitable arm of Lloyds bank for example, to enable them to employ a 'Deputy Community Leader' at no cost to that community itself on a three year contract.

Also, yes we work a 'full time' week, but in a sporadic way. The entire atmosphere is far more relaxed than a clock-in clock-out 'regular' job. Lots of us work hard, we are proud of our communities, our ethos (to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and once we are in a community we are really quite fortunate. Communities make a commitment to perform acts of solidarity. A lot of our free time and work time is given to helping people in the wider local community, assiting other charites etc) but in between those periods of hard work (carrying heavy furniture up and down stairs for example) we can stop and have a coffee, a smoke. A chat. Other than lunch time we do not have scheduled break times, if someone wants a break they take a break. If it's a key role such as manning the till, there is always another companion willing to take over for a while to allow this.

I could go on, but I'm aware I have probably written too much for the average browser to bother to read anyway. But to sum up, I have not visited this website before, I came via google when searching some Emmaus history. But I hope that other articles here actually have some research and fact behind them, and are not similar 'rants' based on poorly informed or totally inaccurate hearsay and assumption.

-Matt. Emmaus Hastings Companion
Anonymous said…
..your research is where or is it just your opinion...opinions are like arsholes we all got one.Your comment with no proof of research is one
Anonymous said…
I have tried everything to get out of here, but I am stuck in the mud. How the hell can these charities exist? Being treated like a slave, being ripped apart from a real society it's sickening. I dont give a monkeys arse about what passionate single thinking companions think. This is a one way ticket to anarcho-capitalism.

I JUST WANT MY FREAKING LIFE BACK.
Anonymous said…
Jay

Emmaus does not hold anyone against there will. I have been to 5 communities around the country and none have been that bad. Do some companions struggle to settle in, yes. Do some communities promise too much, yes. Do some companions get asked to leave as they are perceived as being trouble makers, unfortunately yes.

Staff are not overpaid and most could earn more in other supported housing environments. Emmaus communities accounts are open to the public. Some make good profits others, the majority struggle.

I have lived in supported housing, hostels, nightshelters and slept rough. I feel at home at emmaus.

I would never criticise those that have found their experience at emmaus difficult but I would say that emmaus does have a place in the fight against homelessness.

If you do not like the community you are in then try another. If emmaus is not your cup of tea leave. please do not make unsubstantiated accusations regarding the integrity of an organisation that has benefited hundreds of people

Maybe if the author of this blog is so enraged they may take you into their home. Maybe they have an idea of how they could, SHOULD help those who are homeless. Christians my Arse.
companions at emmaus said…
https://www.theguardian.com/profile/daniel-lavelle

INTERESTING COMMENTS FROM FORMER COMPANION
Another problem is staff pilfering. Im talking about the full time paid staff.
You can see the potential for unscrupulous managers to clean up. It is immpossible to keep stock as no receipts are given and no record made of donations. In my experience
Much of the stuff never reaches emmasus
It is often sold directly to dealers.
I have been in one emmasus where the management are honest but in the other 6
Fiddling was rife. there is one camp which was particularly bad. What disturbed me was the fact that whole families were housed there, the parents working at the camp during the day. This could become a way of life for some people, being born, living and working and dying at Emmasuses
Anonymous said…
Having read your blog I feel that you have only highlighted one of the aspects of the social con that is Emmaus. I have first hand information from companions that this is just the tip of the iceberg (working our nuts off for a pittance) when it comes to the Emmaus way. I have been told of other issues among companions that paid staff turn a blind eye to. These internal issues relate to companions dealing drugs to one another and in the wider community, stealing donations and selling them on via eBay, social media sites, and local auctions, and the sexual harassment/exploitation of women companions who are outnumbered by approximately four to one by male companions. I have also been told of instances where paid staff have cherry picked donations and selected the best items for themselves and then left what remained for the companions. I have also been informed that there are senior staff members who have alcohol dependency issues and because of that have been unable to enforce the no alcohol on the premises policy because it is widely known that they have there own alcohol issues. There are also a large percentage of companions who are substance dependant whether that be alcohol, illicit street drugs or prescribed methadone and suboxone which is provided by local substance misuse services. There is a black market within the community where these controlled prescribed substances are sold or traded among companions. Emmaus does a fantastic job of presenting itself as a caring, supportive organisation among the communities it operates in but it is my belief that underneath that there is far darker anti social force at work that is kept from those who naively support the organisation believing it to be an asset to their community and providing much needed support for societies most vulnerable. The Emmaus mantra is one of solidarity but in reality it is a case of every man/women for themselves.
Anonymous said…
I too have experience of the sinister emmaus.Companions -inmates are forced to work when ill and buy there own clothes out of thirty pounds a week - for forty hours work.The ceo is on 1000 pounds a week the community ops manager 600 a week ,they lose vulnerable companions quickly and look to institutionalise the long termers as 200 p/w housing benefit is paid.Some people have been there ten years and are brainwashed.There was a article in the guardian last week about the workhouse that is emmaus that won a journalist award just google guardian workhouse.The weak are bullied into more than forty hours they claim to be a social enterprise but they are all about money.Housing benefit keeps them alive and pays the staff wages.A pimp poverty charity getting rich off the homeless many enter but only leave when kicked out for drug or alcohol.
WeThePeople said…
Been here nearly a year now, I feel myself fading away. I wont be brainwashed into thinking this is the end. Emmaus is not a charity, its a work camp. I have worked my nuts off yet im being told to work harder on a constant nagging. I love working in a (Real) job but this ... This is like some high stage anarcho-capitalistic regime.

HOW CAN THESE COMMUNITIES STILL EXIST? JUST HOW ... MY HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE BEEN DEGRADED TO SUCH A LOW STANCE ... NEVER FELT THIS EXPOSED BEFORE.

OHHHH WHEN THEY DO ROOMS CHECKS, YOUR PRIVACY IS NON EXISTENT, THEY CHECK EVERY INCH OF YOUR ROOM ... I KID YOU NOT.

WHEN MY TIME HERE IS UP ... I JUST HOPE TO GOD IM THE SAME PERSON I WAS WHEN I MOVED IN.
Anonymous said…
THE WORST CON IN THE CHARITY SECTOR COMPANIANS GET THIRTY POUNDS A WEEK FOR 40 HOURS WORK
SLAVE LABOUR FOR THE HOMELESS
Jamie Fryer said…
It is unfortunate that people have had negative experiences at Emmaus communities. What I do not understand is the vitriol. Other supported housing projects offer far less in the way of support and opportunities.

If it is not the place for you leave. Is your life really worse than it was before you joined Emmaus? If it was then go back to it.

Emmaus is an approach to homelessness that suits some. There is no con, There is no fraud, if it does not work for you leave.

Some communities have difficulties but if a companion does feel Staff or other companions are not behaving correctly then report this anonymously to the board of trustees or Emmaus uk.

Stop trying to undermine a charity that works for some.
Anonymous said…
emmaus is an organisation bleeding the poor,long term companions and ex offenders quickly become institutionalised.No hope..no support to get out why would they as they get 200 pounds housing benfit a week plus 40 hours work for thirty pounds pocket money.Staff get 40 k a year we get gone off fruit and veg donated.
WHAT OTHER COUNTRY ALLOWS THIS
yes ive been here three years cant get out its hopeless
serve first those that suffer the most hardly rings true
1975 said…
First of all let me begin by saying that I have a certain amount of bias where Emmaus is concerned - it saved my life.
That said I feel that I can be reasonably objective about most things in my life.
First of all it will not suit everyone, as with all things some are better suited to certain environments than others and one really ought to be mindful of the fact that most companions have lived through dark times and this obviously has an effect on them as people and the environments they inhabit.
To be blunt, the work can be ann issue for a lot of companions - it is hard graft in most communities and we are sold the idea that money is the only reward worth having. And while it is true to say that companions may not receive what seems like a fair wage to some, all their bills are paid and one must remember that too much money can be a burden to some.
Certainly in the UK staff salaries can be quite substantial, that is the nature of the beast in this country unfortunately, there are many communities around the world where staff members receive the same allowance as companions.
Serve first those most in need - Once a person has a place to live and work to do and food to eat and people to talk to and share their lives with and access to medical care and a disposable income then it is fair to say that they are well beyond what one might reasonably consider 'in need' even in a developed country. And as Emmaus is an international charity, which works with some of the most disadvantaged people on the planet the movement, particularly in the UK, is well within it's rights to continue using the words of the Abbe as its tag line.