Readers support plan to turn South Shields ‘eyesore’ into homeless project

Sue Wilson, chairwoman of Emmaus.
Sue Wilson, chairwoman of Emmaus.

Readers are wading in to support a charity’s plans to turn an abandoned ‘eyesore’ into a house for the homeless in South Tyneside.

Dozens of Gazette readers have voiced their views after charity Emmaus revealed it had bought the former children’s home – which was later used by people with mental health conditions – in Stanhope Road, South Shields.

The building will be used to house up to 15 residents, who are known as companions, and they will be employed full time, at a yet to be decided venue, which will also be ran by Emmaus, in the town centre.

The social enterprise is a first for the region, but is already in place in 26 other areas across the UK, where charity bosses say the vast majority of companions are former military men who have struggled to get back onto ‘Civvy Street’.

However, some residents in Stanhope Road were annoyed that they weren’t told of the plans – the charity didn’t have to hold a public consultation because planning permission was granted in 2012 for the building’s previous owner to turn it into a house of multiple occupancy.

Others feared that companions – who must be drug free, have no violent or serious convictions, and not be alcohol dependant – may bring trouble to the area.

But people posting on the Gazette’s Facebook page and website were overwhelmingly in favour of the plans.

Danny Lamb typed: “Why on earth is there anger over this. Anyone who opposes this should be disgusted in themselves.”

Carly Rebecca Shone said: “People complain that there are homeless people on the streets and then complain about there being a new hostel.

“Where do they want the people to go? The building has been standing empty for years.”

Lorraine Armstrong added: “I have wanted something like this done with this building for a lot of years but haven’t had the funds to do it myself. I am so glad this charity has ventured out and done something so worth while.”

Jennifer Hudson posted: “I think it’s an excellent idea, its shocking there are so many empty buildings when there are so many people who could be living in them.”

Sherina Mcgee said: “I think it’s good, the building will be refurbished and people will gave a safe place to sleep.

“Not all homeless people are druggies. People who have lost their jobs and have fallen on hard times need a bed too.

“Just hope the building will be monitored, then all will be OK.”

Saj Ahmed added: “Good decision for a good cause. Well done. I live around the corner and don’t see it as a problem.

“For all those against it, please have a heart.”

Christian Tiff Kesteris raised a valid point that most people don’t know who their neighbours are when moving into a new home.

He said: “I don’t demand to know who moves into my street whenever there’s a new arrival.

“They complained when the building was empty, now it’s actually being used they’re still complaining.

“I think some people need to get out of the house more and focus less on other people.”

Miss1 submitted: “I live near this and I think it’s a wonderful idea.

“People have been quick to comment when there are so many homeless people around but when this is set up to tackle the problem and help these people, they criticise it because it is on their doorstep.

“Good luck to all involved in the project.”

Joyce Michelle Foley added: “This was my dream if I won the lottery. I’m so happy that this is for homeless people.”

Kate Harris added: “It’s a fantastic idea giving people a fresh start, a roof over their heads and a full-time job.

“Would the people round there rather that the building just kept falling apart while these people struggle on the streets?”

It’s hoped that Emmaus will have the venture up and running by late August/early September. Work is due to start on replacing the roof next week.