this week we speak to Jessica Hodge, Chief Executive of Emmaus Bristol
Emmaus Bristol is primarily a homelessness charity, providing accommodation for up to 25 people. The importance of our model is that people are supporting themselves out of homelessness. People frequently comment on how amazing the customer service is, not tending to realise the person serving them is the recipient of the charity; we like to turn charity on its head.
People come to us because they need help. Once they’ve moved in and started to rebuild their life we expect them to help others – there’s self-worth in feeling ‘I have something to give, someone needs my help’. An amazing volunteer called Peter Gifford runs our Business Incubator, supporting people setting up their own businesses or social enterprises with free desk space, a marketing clinic, funding clinic, etc. If people want to help we take donations of furniture and clothes, and have volunteers helping out with lots of things. If you need portable appliance testing done, ask us – you’ll be helping someone who’s been homeless to get work experience. Some people might be here for a couple of weeks, others for years. Length of stay is unlimited and that’s really important.
If someone comes here with an addiction or a mental or physical health issue those things need to be managed before thinking about next steps.
We’re currently at capacity. Homelessness is worse than it’s been in more than a decade and has risen pretty much directly in line with house prices. We’ve currently got three people in work while they save enough for a rental deposit. On minimum wage you wouldn’t be able to rent anywhere in Bristol on your own, house shares are incredibly competitive, and there’s such a lack of social housing. There are people with jobs who are homeless, which I find extraordinary. Government and society’s attitude needs to change. It makes me so angry when somebody comes here and says they’re grateful to have a roof over their head – they’re grateful for something that should be a right.