Homeless people in South Tyneside have been given a new opportunity to rebuild their lives, thanks to a charity set up by former Beirut hostage Terry Waite CBE.
Terry visited the borough to open a new community in South Shields run by homeless charity Emmaus, as well as the charity’s new shop at Hebburn Shopping Centre.
Emmaus communities provide accommodation, work and support to help homeless people recover their self-confidence and learn new skills to enable them to move on to independent living and employment.
Emmaus North East is the 29th UK community but there are over 300 around the world.
Residents - known as companions - sign off benefits and work full-time collecting, refurbishing and reselling furniture and household goods.
In return, they receive accommodation, meals, toiletries, clothing and a small weekly allowance.
"I started the first community in Cambridge 25 years ago and now we have about 30 nationwide,” said Terry.
"We need more up here, where there has been such a problem with unemployment and so many people have found life difficult.
"At the moment, we have got places for 15 people and we hope to expand that in the future.
"There is nothing more depressing than to go to a new town and see people begging on the streets - the more we can do to give people some dignity back, the better."
The charity was about more than just giving people a roof over their head, he explained.
"Emmaus is unique because it is more than a shelter,” he said.
"It is more of a community that helps people to rebuild their life.
"That is the really important thing.
"There are not enough places like that. There are many places that will give people temporary accommodation but places that will help people to rebuild their lives are few and far between."
Terry hopes the charity’s efforts will be supported by the local community.
"What we need are volunteers to help us in the shop and we also need donations of things that can be sold to help us to raise funds," he said.
"Grateful thanks are due to the people in the local community who have supported us, both from the council and private individuals and companies that have given us their support."