The charity offers accommodation, welfare support and the opportunity to gain work experience at three superstores selling new and used goods in the city, including the largest charity retail store in the UK at 47,000sq ft, Emmaus Megastore on Brookfield Street.
Out of the 12 local authority areas within Lancashire County Council’s administrative area for 2020/21, Preston had the highest number of people asking for homeless support. What’s more, according to a council report published in October 2021, Preston had 422 enquiries from households seeking help with homelessness.
Emma Roberts, managing director at Roberts & Co, said of the tie-up: “It makes perfect sense for a property business to support a charity that is providing homeless people with a place to live and helping these people into work. We really like Emmaus Preston’s ethos of giving people with experience of homelessness a purpose again.”
Kicking off on Tuesday 11 January, the partnership began with the agency offering free advice sessions for the formerly homeless people being supported by Emmaus, on the best way of applying for a new home when they are ready to move on.
One of the beneficiaries of the charity, Beckie, said: “It was very informative. I didn’t think people would be able to get a house because of debt, but I’ve now found out that it may be possible. I’m looking forward to getting a property.”
She added: “The partnership with Roberts & Co is really great. If we need any more information, we can now just ask. It means people here who are looking to get a house in the next 12 months can eventually get one.”
Another companion, Mandy, said: “Community links make people happy, knowing other people care for them. I like the volunteers here and I liked the visit from the estate agents. Their visit was important for when people move out and get their own property. People living here can learn from it, so they know what they are doing. The money the estate agents are donating could go towards improving the community building, or go towards activities for the companions or help towards training.”
Stephen Buchanan, director of Emmaus Preston, said: “We are excited to enter into this incredible new partnership. Emmaus Preston residents will be able to draw on Roberts & Co’s vast knowledge of the housing sector for support, to better understand applying for housing within the local area.”
He added: “To offer a share of housing sales to support Emmaus Preston is extremely generous. In what are challenging times for many families with housing, this kind of support will go a long way to helping provide opportunities to help people feel more ready to take their next steps towards rebuilding their lives.”
What does the charity offer?
Emmaus Preston supports formerly homeless people by providing a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise and ‘an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild lives’. It operates three charity shops, selling second-hand and new low cost white goods and furniture.
Social enterprise is central to the Emmaus model, as it provides meaningful work for companions but also generates funding to maintain communities.
Companions living in Emmaus communities are expected to sign off all benefits, with the exception of housing benefit, which is used to help to support the community. The rest of the funding that is needed is generated through social enterprise and fundraising.
In total, there are currently 29 Emmaus communities across the country, supporting more than 850 companions (formerly homeless people) in the UK. Further to this, there are five Emmaus groups, all of which are working towards setting up an Emmaus community in their area.
The charity says that Emmaus communities deliver a significant return on investment, with research showing that for every £1 invested in a community, there is an £11 return, with savings to the benefits bill, health services and a reduction in crime reoffending.
I spoke to Emma Roberts, managing director of Roberts & Co, which celebrates its 10th birthday in 2022, to find out more about the agency and why they have built this partnership.
“We have always supported community groups and charities by way of sponsorship/being a collection point, etc,” she told me.
“However, this year, being our birthday year, we wanted to do something more concentrated and partner up with a local charity and have a ‘charity of the year’. Emmaus Preston seemed like the perfect choice with us being a property business and Emmaus being a local homeless charity.”
She went on: “I met with the charity director Stephen last year to find out more about their work and I knew straight away that this was such a worthy cause. Through discussion, I also realised that it wasn’t just through fundraising that we could help the charity. Our knowledge and experience of the private rental sector could come in useful for some of the companions.”
Emma says the first event this year was a tenancy workshop which the agency ran over two sessions for the companions.
“We have had really good feedback from the companions and the staff and we are excited to look at different projects throughout the year,” Emma added. “We have also made a commitment to donate a share of fees from our property sales income to the charity.”
As well as the tie-up with Emmaus, Roberts & Co – which was established as a lettings-only business in 2012, before moving into property sales in 2014 – has supported its local community in a number of ways.
This included the two-branch agency purchasing a sports kit for the local primary, supporting the poppy appeal in Lostock Hall, donating and collecting pyjamas for Big South Ribble Sleepover, sponsored local football clubs and supported Save the Children by wearing their Christmas jumpers.
A great insight into an independent agency embedded firmly in their local community, doing good for their local community. Something that is replicated across the country, as the aforementioned Agents Do Charity column showcases on a weekly basis.
That’s that from me this week…until next time.
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.