A homeless charity which is about to launch its first project in South Tyneside has scooped a £250,000 grant.
Emmaus North East has received the cash from the Virgin Money Foundation, under it’s new Ripple Fund, to help pay for its new project in Stanhope Road, South Shields.
The former children’s home - which is due to open next month after more than a year-long revamp - will house 15 people, known as companions.
Already a number of companies from across the region have been donating their spare time, goods, and cash to help the get the project up and running.
Sue Wilson, chairman of Emmaus North East, said: “The Ripple Fund award to Emmaus North East will make a huge difference to our project. “We can finish the residence and provide training facilities for our ‘companions’, formerly homeless people, to enable them to make a confident fresh start eventually moving on to independent living and mainstream employment.
“Since we received the award we have had whole teams of tradesmen making good progress and we hope to finish and occupy in March”
This will make a huge difference to our project.Sue wilson
The cash will also be used to invest in the charity’s social enterprises.
The aim is for companions to be employed in workshops which will rework donated goods and they will then sell them in their stores.
The charity has a shop in Gateshead and is due to open a second in Hebburn.
It will also be creating a workshop in a unit at St Hilda’s Industrial Park in South Shields.
Nancy Doyle, executive director of Virgin Money Foundation, said: “Emmaus has a strong track record in supporting people to exit homelessness and, after they have worked tirelessly for nine years to set up Emmaus North East, we are proud to be coming on board to provide funding to complete the building work and launch the Emmaus community in the region.”
What is Emmaus? Sidebar
The new companion’s house will not only be a first for South Tyneside - but for the North East.
Emmaus had been established in France for 40 years before it came to the UK in the early 1990s.
Since the first community opened in the UK in 1991, the charity has grown quickly.
There are now 29 communities spread across the UK, with a further four groups, including the South Shields one, currently working to establish new communities.
There’s also 750 Emmaus companions living at communities stretching from Glasgow to Dover.
Each one has at least one shop or social enterprise, with many running successful cafés, shops, gardening projects and removal companies.
Humanitarian campaigner, Terry Waite, who was held captive for five years after going to the Lebanon in 1987 as a peace envoy, is president of Emmaus and spoke passionately to an audience at the Customs House last April.
He said: “We believe very strongly that we can make an impact for good on the situation facing homeless people.
“We want to enable people to regain their dignity as human beings. There’s no dignity in sitting on a street with a cap in your hands begging.”