With a vacancy for an Accommodation and Support Manager with Emmaus South Wales, Bev Garside speaks to CEO Jemma Wray and asks, ‘What’s so special about Emmaus?’
Could you introduce yourself and your role within Emmaus South Wales?
I’m Jemma Wray and I am CEO of Emmaus South Wales. We are a local homelessness and social exclusion charity and social enterprise raising the majority of our income through trading. We can support up to 24 companions at a time in our Nant Lais community home and they volunteer within our enterprises when they join us.
Emmaus is a global movement, and the term ‘companion’ originates from France where Emmaus started after the Second World War in response to the desperate poverty and homelessness at that time. It was founded on an ethos of we live, work and acting together against injustice. We recognise that social exclusion leaves people feeling that they do not have anything valuable to contribute; we seek to challenge this through our residential communities and by providing meaningful roles within our Social Enterprises.
Emmaus’ theory of change is based on three principles.
A sense of community and a need that people have to belong; a feeling of use and having a sense of purpose, and solidarity from helping others and meeting other’s needs.
Our companions sign off all benefits except housing benefit and companions accrue savings for their life beyond Emmaus.
What drew you to your role?
For me, homelessness is a systemic issue and a consequence of poverty. My career has been around social justice and levelling the playing field. What particularly drew me to Emmaus was that the model is unique in the UK, in that it is a highly participatory organisation. Our companions take responsibility, for example working in and running shops alongside staff, and .helping with the day to day running of the community.
Emmaus has a strength-based approach not a deficit approach.
What challenges does Emmaus South Wales face in the current climate?
This has been a very challenging year for Emmaus South Wales. As a social enterprise we rely on trading for most of our income and strive to be self-sufficient financially. Our four charity shops have had to close for large periods of time which has impacted both our income and the roles of our companions.
Many of our companions have underlying health issues which has placed them at significant risk from COVID-19. The real challenge has been managing boredom and the impact this has had on wellbeing. During the first lockdown we launched our rainbow box scheme, delivering entertainment packs to families who were shielding which included board games,DVDs, boks etc on a loan scheme basis.
We also started face mask production by recycling fabric donations to the shops and selling those and started developing new products such as garden furniture.
Is there a typical person who receives support from Emmaus?
Homelessness is changing rapidly in the UK in terms of who is vulnerable. Systemic issues such as poverty, but also life events such as a relationship breakdown can result in homelessness. As a movement, Emmaus tends to support more male companions than female but one of the questions moving forward is how we ensure we are relevant to the new challenges brought by the pandemic, for example women in low paid work have been disproportionally impacted by the massive job losses seen this year.
What makes Emmaus South Wales special?
Our theory of change does not mention homelessness, people face challenges because they are poor and feel isolated, disconnected, and unvalued and our response to it is unique in Wales. We focus on long term sustainable solutions that support people and our planet.
Going forward we are looking at how we strengthen our accommodation offer to provide a pathway into a sustainable secure tenancy. It’s a very exciting project to develop a hub and spoke housing model by adding smaller self contained homes connected to our existing Community House. It will mean that we will be able to continue to provide community based support to companions who are ready to move on from their roles within our Enterprise.
Hopes for the future. Where will Emmaus South Wales be in five years’ time?
In five years’, time I would want us to have a community working at capacity and potentially increased. I am excited about broadening our offer. We have more to do to develop a support offer for our volunteers/ non-residential companions which will benefit them.
I would like to see us be more purposeful and deliberate in our contribution and strengthening what we do and how we work with partners to increase our impact.
You are looking to appoint an Accommodation and Support Manager, what can candidates expect if they join Emmaus South Wales?
The role of Accommodation and Support Manager, the board would argue is the most important role in the charity and sets the tone for the whole organisation. The postholder is the one who shapes admissions and referral processes alongside the support, training and development of companions. It is a busy and varied role. It is an exciting time and the next year will involve changing and shaping those changes. There are two staff members within the community team but there is an opportunity for the Accommodation and Support Manager to increase that team with volunteers. The postholder will also be part of the senior management team which is relatively new, but a strong team and talented group of people.
We have a ‘Can do’ culture at Emmaus South Wales. Organisationally we try to approach what is possible and what people can do. We are very positive in our approach as to what can be achieved, and we are highly participatory.
We need someone who can build relationships and rapport and is a good communicator. They will need to be calm under pressure and a creative problem solver. We want someone who is passionate and is connected to our ethos.
Applications for this role go live in February. Contact email@example.com for an information pack.