In 1945, inadequate housing is one of the main issues of post-war France, and one of the main fights of Abbé Pierre. Former resistant, deputy of the Popular Republican Movement, he created the first Emmaus community in a house of Neuilly-Plaisance in 1949. This community welcomed homeless men, women and families, offering them not only a shelter, but a reason to live: not to be helped, but to help others.
In 1954, while a very cold winter strikes the country, Abbé Pierre’s calls urging the French people to help the homeless made known the Emmaus Movement to the whole country. An unprecedented involvement overwhelms both France and the world. The newspapers call it “the insurrection of kindness” and from this day on, the Emmaus movement spreads worldwide as new communities emerge in France and abroad. All those communities have at heart to spread Abbé Pierre’s values: to battle poverty and exclusion, to give back their dignity to the people who suffer from it. To do so, the communities mostly welcome former homeless people who want to change their life through work and life in community. Most of the communities employ companions who work in charity shops, selling different items and clothes donated by individuals or organisations, as did the first Emmaus ragmen.
Since 1971, Emmaus International has kept going and promoting Abbé Pierre’s line work, highlighting his various fights, such as the battle against hunger, for the right of housing, the right of asylum or the fight against dictatorships.
In 2017, the Emmaüs movement counts nearly 350 communities across the world, from Bolivia to India, from Angola to Romania. One of which is in Iași.