A new centre for the homeless is gearing up to welcome its first residents ahead of its official opening later this year.
Homelessness charity Emmaus North East has now completed the renovation of a former children’s home on Stanhope Road, South Shields, to provide a place for 15 formerly homeless people - known as companions - to live.
The project, which has taken 16 months to complete, is part of the charity’s overall scheme that sees the companions living together and working together in a workshop upcycling furniture.
The centre is the first in the region and one of 29 across the UK and aims to help people who have been homeless discover new confidence through working with others and contributing to the life of a wider community.
Sue Wilson, chair of Emmaus North East, says the first four campanions are set to move in in the coming weeks.
She said: “It is really exciting. We have had a lot of help and a lot of people have been calling in with donations, which is lovely.
“There is no maximum length of stay at the home. Different people need different time to renew their self confidence and social skills. “They will go out to work each day in the workshop making things to sell in our charity shops.
“The enterprise is not a hand out, it is a hand up. It is not enough to just give people a bed. You have to give them a reason to get out of bed.”
The three-storey building has 15 bedrooms, a kitchen area, living area and office spaces.
The whole project has cost the charity around £800,000 - including a £40,000 donation from Stewarts Law LLP.
Other business have also donated including Jarrow Carpets and Newcastle University, which has provided furniture formerly used in student accommodation.
Community manager John Harrison, who will be based at the home, said: “It is a great opportunity for the companions to be part of the community. People in South Shields have been very supportive of us from the beginning and I think they will continue to.
“I am sure the companions will enjoy being part of the South Shields community.”
Companions living in Emmaus communities are expected to sign off benefits, with the exception of housing benefit, which is used to help to support the community.
The rest of the funding needed is generated through social enterprise and fundraising.
Rachel Eklund, deputy community leader at the home, added: “I am local to the area and have been with the project since it started, so I am really excited about it opening.”
The home is suitable for people aged 18 to 65, with the charity taking on self-referrals from May.
To find out more visit: www.emmaus-northeast.org.uk