Emmaus in FranceEmmaus started off in France in 1949 and the movement now has 220 member groups in the country. There are many different types of structures in France, providing a response tailored to the local situation (communities, social action and housing structures, SOS Families, friends committees and reintegration structures). The groups in the country benefit from the support of the national organisation, Emmaus France.
OriginsIn November 1949, called to the side of a desperate man who had tried to commit suicide, Abbé Pierre spontaneously offered “the opposite of charity” by suggesting he come to “help him help others” by building accommodation for homeless families. Georges Legay agreed to do so. Soon, other men joined him at the Emmaus house in Neuilly-Plaisance and the first community was then set up. In January 1951, five companions built the first accommodation. In June 1951, Abbé Pierre was not re-elected as an MP. With money running short, Abbé Pierre went begging on the streets of Paris. A companion came up with the answer: to become rag-pickers. From then onwards, the community lived off collecting and selling raw materials and second-hand items. Little by little, rules came into being as the community gained in experience. “Never shall we accept that our subsistence depend on anything else than our work”. At the end of 1953, there were 180 companions in eight communities. With little means at their disposal, they housed 141 families. On 1 February 1954, in response to the authorities’ lack of action, Abbé Pierre gave his well-known radio appeal.
- Welcome, providing accommodation, reintegration
- Collecting, reusing, recycling and selling on objects
- Political campaigning and awareness raising
- Social action and housing (emergency accommodation, social housing, fighting against excessive debt, etc.)
- Local, european and international solidarity initiatives
- Fixing objects, upcycling
- Farming, farms for the reintegration of former convicts and for those towards the end of their sentences
- Solidarity driving schools
- Design of furniture and objects, styling
- The online sales platform Label Emmaüs
30,000 stakeholders involved with Emmaus (including companions, volunteers and employees)
480 sales areas
270,000 tons of merchandise collected every year
National delegate for France
The Challenges in France
“The classic Emmaus activity of collecting, reusing and selling on second-hand objects remains our main model but other activities are starting to emerge and we want to encourage and support the development of such initiatives. Examples include the farms launched in several Emmaus communities or Pages Solidaires (Solidarity Pages) which involves selling books online, but there are many others. We need fresh ideas, we need imagination and innovation to create different ways to help people. This process is now underway and I trust the groups of the movement to do this well. Emmaus France will always be here to support them.”
© Emmaus France
© Atelier Emmaüs
Find out more
The Abbé Pierre memory centre celebrates its 10th birthday!
In the house in Normandy, France, where Abbé Pierre lived out his final years, a museum has been open to the public since 22nd January 2012. Many exhibitions have been held there, but his room and the chapel have been kept in their original state.
Tackling Poverty / Solidarity
Emmaus Bussières-et-Pruns, a welcome centre for asylum seekers
Let’s take a look at a different facet of our movement with the Bussières-et-Pruns group and their initiative to provide a dignified welcome to asylum seekers.