Thursday 6 September 2018

Emmaus companion appeals for summer essentials

Emmaus Rucksack Appeal

With high temperatures expected to make a comeback in September, a recovering addict and formerly homeless man who is now being supported by local charity Emmaus Gloucestershire is appealing for donations of summer essentials to distribute to street homeless people who are facing extreme weather conditions.  

In a bid to help others in the same position that he once was, Will Fletcher, 36, along with other Emmaus Gloucestershire staff, companions and volunteers, is appealing for donations of rucksacks, sunscreen, water, baseball caps, soap, toothbrushes, underwear and additional clothing to distribute to homeless individuals who visit the soup kitchen held on Eastgate Street, Gloucester each Wednesday.

Will, who has been receiving support from Emmaus Gloucestershire for almost two years, said: “My life before Emmaus was pretty miserable. I got addicted to drugs and that was my focus. I’d spend all the money I earned and sell any possessions that I had to buy drugs. Everything I did was to fuel my drug addiction.”

Emmaus Glos companion Will

Before joining Emmaus, Will would stay in hostels when they had space: “There’s a huge difference between a hostel and an Emmaus community. The support I receive from Emmaus has been brilliant; they get to know you and figure out the right kind of support for you. There was no real structure in hostels, and I was left to my own devices. When boredom set in, I would fall back into bad habits, and in my case, drug use.”

As a companion, which is how people living at Emmaus Gloucestershire are known, Will now has a home for as long as he needs, and the opportunity to gain work experience to learn new skills and rebuild his confidence and self-esteem: “At Emmaus I have a role within one of our shops. I’m responsible for sorting all the clothing when donations arrive, ensuring that it’s ready for sale. I have worked all my life, and I enjoy the responsibility and trust that Emmaus has given me.”  

Over time, Will began to rebuild his life and wanted to give back to the charity that helped him while helping others who are still in the position he once was: “I volunteer once a week at the soup kitchen in Gloucester city centre. My fellow companions and I now lead on this activity, loading up the van with food and rucksacks filled with essentials for up to 40 people each week.

I feel like I’m making a real difference by distributing food and rucksacks. It also reminds me of the times that I was on the other side of the table – I too accepted help in the same way and I remember how it felt to receive the kindness of strangers. I now give show that same respect to those I meet every week.”

‘Street homeless people endure increased health issues during extreme weather, sub-zero or sub-tropical. We’re keen to raise awareness of the issues facing street homeless people throughout the year. Our soup kitchen, led by our Emmaus companions and volunteers each Wednesday, is the easiest place for people to collect their rucksack. We’re so thankful for the support and donations we received from Gloucestershire residents last year and hope this campaign will generate similar enthusiasm.’

Joe Feeley, CEO at Emmaus Gloucestershire

Emmaus Gloucestershire provides a home for as long as needed and meaningful work for up to 31 Emmaus companions who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion, offering them an alternative route out of homelessness within a supportive environment. Companions gain valuable skills through working in the charity’s five charity shops in Cheltenham, Stroud, Nailsworth, and Gloucester. All funds generated from each shop helps to support the Emmaus Gloucestershire community.

The soup kitchen regularly caters for up 40 homeless people each week. Alongside Emmaus companions and volunteers, the evening is also regularly supported with food donations from local catering company Green Gourmet and the general public.

To donate items for the summer rucksack appeal visit one of Emmaus Gloucestershire’s five charity shops in Cheltenham, Stroud, Nailsworth or Gloucester from 10am to 5pm.

To find out more visit www.emmaus.org.uk/gloucestershire