Redditch is new home for homeless charity

A charity that fights against homelessness is to create 30 new jobs after setting up in Redditch.

Emmaus UK has launched a new textiles and clothing sorting business at 52 Heming Road, Washford, with help from property agents John Truslove. The aim is to raise money for the parent charity and to increase the re-use and recycling of clothes.

The venture will also produce 40 volunteer opportunities.

Emmaus Textiles is also set to establish a café and shop within the town centre early this year which will provide three full time jobs and 15-20 volunteer opportunities. Unlike most Emmaus shops which sell donated goods, the Redditch one will be selling brand new products which are the result of an arrangement with a major high street retailer.

Emmaus Communities offer homeless people a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives. There are currently 24 around the UK and several more in development but the only West Midlands one is in Coventry.

Heming Road is a 14,835 sq ft unit which has been taken on a five year lease.

It is to be the UK distribution centre for the clothing side.

Clothes are sorted and re-sold, with the bulk going for export to Africa and Pakistan. Previously this was handled through private merchants but Emmaus Textiles has taken over this role, hence the establishment of the centre.

Project manager Neil Booker said: “The centre is operational, we have our first two employees, we are taking on another six and it will continue to roll out from there.

“Obviously Redditch is a very central location in England but another reason we chose the town was because we have only a small presence in the West Midlands and we hope it could stimulate the establishment of a Community in Birmingham.”

Homeless people are being given priority for the distribution centre work and are being paid the living wage rather than the minimum wage.

John Truslove partner Ian Parker said: “Emmaus is a fantastic charity, doing tremendous work with those who desperately need help.

“We are so pleased they have chosen Redditch. Their arrival is a significant asset for the town.”

Emmaus Communities enable people to move on from homelessness, providing work and a home in a supportive environment. Companions, as residents are known, work full time collecting renovating and reselling donated furniture, clothing, bedding, household goods and the like.

Often Companions have been living on the streets and sleeping rough. They come from different backgrounds and have become homeless for a variety of reasons – relationship breakdown, job loss or bereavement. Many struggle with alcohol and drug dependency. Those coming to Emmaus must be prepared to work and to sign off Job Seekers Allowance. Those addicted to alcohol or drugs must want to overcome this, as no alcohol or drugs are allowed in communities

The work supports the Community financially and enables residents to develop skills, rebuild their self-respect and help others in similar need.

Companions receive accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance, but for many, the greatest benefit is a fresh start.

Emmaus is a secular movement, spanning 36 countries, with 24 Communities in the UK. Each Community aims to become self-supporting, with any surplus donated to others in need.

Turnover for the UK is £18 million.

Mr Booker said: “The perception of people who are homeless is that they are a drain on society, but the residents of Emmaus Communities turn this perception on its head. Not only do they work to support themselves, but they also work to help others.

“They clear playgrounds, cook lunch for pensioners, drive people to and from their homes and work in soup kitchens.

Patrons include Terry Waite, The Duchess of Cornwall and a wide range of other high profile supporters.

The first Emmaus Community was founded in Paris in 1949 by Abbé Pierre, a priest, MP and former member of the French resistance. The idea spread around the world, but didn’t arrive in the UK until 1992, when the first Community opened in Cambridge

There is no limit to how long people stay in a Community – it can be anything from a couple of weeks to several years.