In 1945, poor housing was one of the major problems of post-war France, and one of Abbé Pierre's main combats. A former resistance fighter and member of the Mouvement Républicain Populaire, he created the first Emmaus community in a house in Neuilly-Plaisance in 1949. This community welcomes men, women and families who are homeless, offering them not just a shelter, but a reason to live: not to be helped, but to help help others. These first companions are ragpickers, they rummage through rubbish bins, sort and resell what can be sold.
In 1954, when an unprecedented winter hit France, the Emmaus movement gained national recognition thanks to Abbé Pierre's appeal, urging the French to help the homeless. An unparalleled mobilisation moved France and the world. Newspapers called it "the insurrection of benevolence". From this date, the Emmaus movement took on a worldwide dimension, as new groups were created in France, but also abroad. All these associations, which include living and working communities, transmit Abbé Pierre's values, notably the fight against poverty and exclusion, in order to restore human dignity to the people concerned. In order to do so, these communities usually take in ex-homeless people who want to get off the streets through work and community life. Most communities give a place to these companions in second-hand shops, selling objects, clothes donated by individuals or associations, as the ragpickers of Emmaus did in their time.
Companions: people who live and work in an Emmaus community. They are fed, housed, laundered, work in the Emmaus second-hand shop and benefit from personal and professional support. In this way, they train, reintegrate socially and contribute to the running of the community.
Since 1971, Emmaus International has continued and promoted Abbé Pierre's work, highlighting his various struggles, such as the fight against hunger, the right to housing, the right to asylum and the fight against dictatorships.
In 2020, the Emmaus movement has 410 groups around the world, from Bolivia to India, Angola to Romania. And at Iași.
Update : Oct. 2020