Official logo of the Emmaus International organisation, since November 2014
|Focus||Poverty, exclusion and homelessness|
Since 1971 regional and national initiatives have been grouped under a parent organization, Emmaus International, now run by Jean Rousseau, representing 310 groups in 38 countries, offering a range of charitable services.
Emmaus is a secular organisation, but Communities around the world have kept the name because of its symbolism. The biblical story, found in the Gospel of Luke, describes how two men saw the resurrected Jesus at the town of Emmaus, and so regained hope.
The organization's guiding principle can be found in the Universal Manifesto of Emmaus International:
Serve those worse off than yourself before yourself. Serve the most needy first.
The first Emmaus Community was founded by Father Henri-Antoine Groues (known as Abbé Pierre) in Paris in 1949. The former Resistance member was also an MP who fought to provide accommodation for the homeless people of Paris.
Abbé Pierre also took on the first Emmaus Companion, a former convict called Georges who had attempted suicide in the Seine. George helped to build temporary homes for those in need (initially in the priest's own garden), and then on any land they could obtain.
from Parliament in 1951, Abbé Pierre dedicated himself to the homeless cause. He struggled to pay Georges and the first 18 members of the Emmaus Community. The priest was rebuffed by his Church for begging at restaurants and so organised 'rag pickers' to collect unwanted items for resale. This formed the basis of Emmaus Communities raising funds and using profits to help others.
The harsh winter of 1954 led to a number of homeless people's deaths and Abbé Pierre appealed through the newspapers and on the radio for donations. The French people responded and Emmaus grew from a national charity into an international one. Emmaus Communities now began to appear across Europe, French West Africa, the Far East and South America.
By 2014 there were 336 Emmaus organisations in 37 countries.
Emmaus in the UK
The first British Emmaus Community appeared in Cambridge in 1992. It was set up by Selwyn Image who had been a student volunteer at an Emmaus Community in Paris. The charity provides formerly homeless people with a home and work, usually collecting, sorting and reselling donated furniture and household goods. Emmaus UK acts as a central resource to local Emmaus Communities across the UK. As of February 2015[update] there are 24 Emmaus Communities operating in the UK, with nine more under development. These Communities provide accommodation and employment for formerly homeless people.