Emmaus Sheffield chairman receives national award as he announces retirement
The founder member and chairman of homelessness charity Emmaus Sheffield has had his decades of work and support recognised by the national Emmaus movement.
Martin Davies has been presented with the Emmaus UK 30th Anniversary Founders’ Medal, marking his 24 years as chairman of the Sheffield charity and his eight year period as trustee as then chair of Emmaus UK itself.
Emmaus Sheffield is the drug and alcohol free project that provides a home, support and work for formerly homeless people in the city.
Through its Social Enterprise programme it aims to provide meaningful work and enable the people it supports – known as companions - to eventually become self-supporting once more.
The national award coincides with Martin’s decision to stand down as chairman, though he insists he will continue as an Emmaus volunteer.
As one of the founders of Emmaus Sheffield, Martin recognised the need for an organisation that would offer a positive support structure for homeless people who were committed to turning their lives around..
And he was a driving force behind the campaign that took the historic Sipelia Works close to Sheffield’s Canal Basin and saw it transformed into an Emmaus community that has, since it first opened its doors in 2008, given support and fresh opportunities to more than 260 men and women.
Martin, a former South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable, first became involved in the issues of homelessness in the 1990s, identifying the need for a new approach to tacking the issues of life on the streets.
Having been introduced to Emmaus UK - the charity that offers a home, meaningful work and a sense of belonging to previously homeless people across the country - in 1996 he became part of the group that aimed to bring the Emmaus philosophy to Sheffield.
A major turning point was the identification of Sipelia Works as a potential home for the Sheffield community, a vision which came true thanks to determination and generous grant donations.
“It might have seemed an unusual choice at the time but Sipelia Works was the right place for Emmaus,” Martin says.
“It’s almost in the city centre and the people of Sheffield, the trusts, the churches and the council have all been so supportive.
“And of course the whole Emmaus team have worked so hard over the years to maintain our great service.”
Martin adds though that most important part of the Emmaus community has always been the companions themselves.
“So often their dignity has gone when they come to us and part of our process is to help them rebuild their lives and dignity and give them the self confidence to be able to cope with life again,” he says.
“Being a part of Emmaus has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career and public life and it has given me the greatest sense of personal satisfaction.
“After 24 years, the time has come for a change - we need new people to come along and give the charity a new energy and sense of purpose and direction.
“I was lost for words when I realised I had been given the national award and I feel I have been done a great honour.”