The Emmaus movement began about fifty years ago back in France at the end of World War II. The war had left devastation. The industrial infrastructure had been pretty much destroyed by German and allied
bombings, and all the able bodied workforce had been deported to Germany. Many of them never returned. What was left among the rubble were the very old, the very young, and who were ill or in some other way disabled. The outlook was grim.
Emmaus was the brainchild of a hero of the French Resistance whose nickname was “Abbe Pierre”. He was, in fact, a diocesan priest in Grenoble who had spent the war forging identity papers for refugees until about 3 A.M., getting up at 7 to carry out his diocesan duties, and when he had some free time, escorting parties of fugitives across the Pyrenees by little known paths to the Spanish border.
After the war, “Abbe Pierre” decided that the best thing he could do
to improve the situation would be to run for Parliament. His
parliamentary salary went to buy a large abandoned mansion on the
outskirts of Paris, and move some homeless people into it. He was
presently able to expand this operation into some abandoned railway
sleeping cars. Then he began to build cottage on the property. This
became the first Emmaus community, named after a biblical story about
regaining lost hope.
He quickly became disillusioned with legislation as a solution to the problems confronting France, and resigned to work full time on overcoming poverty. There was no more parliamentary salary to support the community, but “Abbe Pierre” had made many friends and had no trouble taking up a collection. When he brought the proceeds back to the community, however, it was indignantly rejected. “We are not beggars, and we will find a way to support ourselves”!
They started their own business collecting rags and paper and anything else they could find and selling wherever they were able. You can find
them on the internet as “the rag pickers of Paris” The recycling of household goods is still the main business of most Emmaus communities, although each new community has to find its own economic niche depending on the needs and opportunities in each location.
Here is Bath the outstanding opportunity seemed to be making use of the many empty and deteriorating houses and recycling them as housing for our many homeless families who need a place to make a new start. We have located an empty and deteriorating house which seems ideal as a home for our new HOMEtogether Emmaus community in Bath.
We need to begin by creating a space for HOMEtogether community where a group of long-term unemployed workers can live and learn the hard and soft skills that they will need to rehabilitate their own dwelling and work space, and in the process build a team that can then go out and repeat this process with another old empty house, and then another….
The wages earned in this work will support the HOMEtogether community, and presently produce some savings. When the community has built enough equity, one of these old houses can become a second Emmaus community, which will find its own economic niche. The Emmaus model is duplicatable. There are now 313 communities in the four corners of the globe. We will be the second in the United States, the first being the H.O.M.E. Cooperative in Orland.