holy trinity camp hillFor many years as Trinity Centre the former church –  a listed building – offered accommodation and rehabilitation to homeless men, but those who moved on to supported housing returned after a few months, if not earlier, unless they found work. They would begin to drink too much because of loneliness and boredom and eventually be unable to pay their dues.

emmaus logoWhen the Centre was put up for sale some local people thought that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community which would work particularly well with residential, working and retail activities on the same site – though in Coventry this has not been possible.

But the building is still not being put to good use . . . International Stock applied to convert it to office accommodation in 2004 as part of the development of an Irish Quarter and there were signs of works being undertaken from time to time over the years. However, probably due to the economic down turn, in 2012 Jon Griffin reported, ”The final nail has been driven into the coffin of £150 million plans to regenerate Birmingham’s Irish Quarter . . . “

Emmaus is a secular, worldwide, social enterprise – the only organisation in which the formerly homeless are offered work as a central focus. It flourishes on the continent where it was started by the Abbé Pierre to help homeless ex-servicemen sleeping rough by repairing war-damaged houses for their use.

emmaus leeds

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale – like the Betel organisation in Birmingham. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

emmaus vanThey go out for a drink, as others do, as long as they behave acceptably when at home. Even if they have to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while. There are currently twenty-four communities around the UK and several more in development.

Every town should have such a base, and in a city the size of Birmingham four could be set up.  Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner and could, perhaps, move forward such a project.