Tuesday 6 February 2018

Blog: Simon Says – Thank you to our sunny Salford supporters

Simon at Emmaus Salford

Last year was a big year for Emmaus Salford and we’re looking at even more developments in 2018.

In 2017 we’ve reached and exceeded the landmark of 20 companions consistently being supported at Emmaus Salford at any one time. We’ve got space for 25 people or possibly more if we take in couples.

Alongside our two existing shops we opened the new Emmaus Salford Emporium in Swinton. We opened our new Workshop space near MediaCity where we now do a lot of our sorting, repairs and PAT testing of electrical appliances.

We also opened Lucie’s Pantry which is the first ever social supermarket that any Emmaus community has had in the country. It’s a food coop where people pay subscriptions each week, £2.50, in return for £15 worth of food and household essentials. It’s run totally by our companions – formerly homeless people providing a food service to vulnerable homed households in Salford to help prevent them from becoming homeless.

In 2017 I suppose what we did was branched out from being just focussed around our Fitzwarren Street community. We moved out into the wider community and most companions now leave the community building in the morning to work at different locations – much like most people who work throughout the day.

We are continually looking at how we diversify what we do here at Emmaus Salford in order to better serve the wider community, specifically people in need. We’re thinking about opening a café and moving our retail space away from our main community building. We’re also looking at a potential new store in South Manchester.

There has been a lot of talk of late amongst the Emmaus movement within the UK about the Emmaus concept, the ideals of Abbé Pierre and getting back to our roots. What I hope Emmaus Salford is about is being part of Salford – finding the need and giving our companions an opportunity to support the wider community and lead happy lives.

For us it’s a lot about the happiness factor. I always say we’re from sunny Salford and people think I’m joking about that. Actually, there’s a lot of people from Salford who are quite sunny and in the face of adversity, always seem to be smiling and working together. I’ve never worked in an area that’s as supportive as Salford, where people help you for no other reason than they can.

It’s this kind support and community spirit that has helped us get to where we are today so it’s only natural that Emmaus Salford looks at ways to support the wider community. I always go on about this 33 and a third percent approach at Emmaus Salford. A third of our efforts go on investing in our companions, a third towards ensuring Emmaus Salford’s viability, sustainability and growth and a final third towards solidarity – our work in the wider community to enrich the lives of others.

We are facing the dilemma of possibly not having a building in Salford in six years’ time as we haven’t heard whether we’ll get an extension to our lease. We are also facing the challenging prospect of housing benefit cuts and the need to increase revenue from our social enterprises. Despite all of this we have to continue to support people, grow, gain forward momentum and do as much as we can, whilst we can.

At Emmaus Salford we have myself and Karl who go out and get these mad ideas off the ground, we’ve got Rachel who looks after the pounds, shilling and pence, and we have Sarah who offers personal support to companions. Other than that it’s companions who run things here including all aspects of our social enterprises and the solidarity projects – it’s their community!

Companions know what they’re doing on any given day and if they have a problem, we’re here to help. We’re all adults and we all work together and support each other. Companions drive the vans, serve customers, work the tills, answer the phones, sort and recycle items, refurbish furniture, run Lucie’s Pantry, cook the meals, decorate rooms and retail spaces, and much more. In the great words of Tony from Emmaus Bolton; ‘the staff are merely here to put the wheels back on when they fall off’.

We’ve got a lot of challenges going forward but I’m not scared by them, I’m actually quite excited by them. We started the community nearly four years ago and in that time we’ve supported more than 60 people who were homeless. We currently have 20 companions living, five women and fifteen men. We seem to be able to just crack on and do stuff. That’s credit to the hard work of our companions and their ability to support each other.

I’m proud when I ask companions to do things outside of their comfort zone and they rise to the challenge. One recent example is when we had eight weeks to craft a choir and they ended up singing in front of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and sang to crowds of shoppers at the Trafford Centre. They did that because we asked them if they would and because it was a laugh.

I’ve never wanted to come to a workplace where you couldn’t have a giggle and I’m lucky that we have a very informal community that is a community - a real mix of people that support each other and do things together.

We’ve been lucky at Emmaus Salford in that we’ve been supported really well by the wider community that we’re based within. We offer a really good service – great quality furniture at a really good price and a friendly, welcoming service. When people come in it’s a nice shop, a nice environment and people are nice to them.

We have lots of really great customers who come in and some of them just come in to say hello. That’s really nice for us as it proves that we’re doing something right and importantly it proves to companions that they’re doing something right. I think people respect the fact that we’re working together to make better lives for each other and for people in need.

I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has shopped here, donated goods and supported us along the way. It means a lot to me and our companions that we’ve got so much support from the wider community.  

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