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‘There is hope after homelessness’ – how one woman rebuilt her life with help from a South Shields-based charity

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness
Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness

Homelessness can affect anyone, of any social standing, at any time.

The reasons don’t have to be down to just issues with drugs and alcohol or other form of addiction, it can be the result of a relationship breakdown, a job loss, being unable to cope with the death of a loved one or life in general.

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness with charity community manager John Harrison

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness with charity community manager John Harrison

On World Homelessness Day, Emma Rosslee – who is now building a new life for herself in South Tyneside, with the help of charity Emmaus – explained how she found herself homeless in a city she didn’t know.

The fear of what could have happened as she faced nights on the streets in Manchester, still fills Emma with dread.

Now, living in shared accommodation with her own bedroom at the home Emmaus has created in Stanhope Road, South Shields, the 28-year-old still has flashbacks to what could have been.

Emma worked as a nanny in Manchester.

I just want people, who find themselves like I was, to know there is hope and you can come back from it.

Emma Rosslee

It was a job she loved, but as time went on the role was eventually made redundant and she found herself with little money, no job and no home in a city she didn’t know.

Left to fend for herself, she ended up sleeping near the city’s police station in a bid to keep herself safe with only two bags of her belongings.

Eventually she went to the Salvation Army, where she spent a few nights, before she was eventually given the help she needed to get back to Salisbury where she was originally from.

She said: “The police in Manchester helped me as much as they could, but I wasn’t a danger. I was a girl who was on her own.

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness

“I went to the council but they couldn’t do much as I hadn’t lived in Manchester that long, but they put me in touch with the Salvation Army. They got me off the streets. It wasn’t the cold that bothered me, I was scared.”

Emma added: “When people think of those who are homeless, they do think it is down to drink or drugs. I don’t drink and I certainly don’t do drugs.

“I ended up in a situation beyond my control.”

After spending time in a young person’s project in Salisbury, she was introduced to charity Emmaus and eventually given a place in its home in South Shields.

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness

Emmaus companion Emma Rosslee World Homwless Day awareness

“I was living in a Emmaus place downsouth, but I wanted to move up north. I didn’t know there was a place in South Shields.

“I came up for a week to meet everyone and to see if I liked it. I’m the only girl in the building but it doesn’t bother me.

“I’m just glad everyone is giving me the chance.”

She added: “They are helping me so much. I’ve been put on courses and I take part in a drama course on Fridays. They have given me so much of my life back, I love it here.

“A part of me doesn’t want to think about what could have been. I’m just so grateful for the opportunities and all the help everyone has given me over the past few years.

“I just want people, who find themselves like I was, to know there is hope and you can come back from it.”

Emma hopes to one day gain employment in musical theatre.

Emmaus Community Manager John Harrison said: “The majority of people we have here are from the North East and from South Tyneside who have found themselves homeless for all sorts of reasons.

“Being here, it gives them the chance to re-discover themselves, they realise they do have a value and can contribute to their community.

“When they come here, they have low self-esteem and they feel they are nothing.

“Being part of Emmaus, we encourage them to help others and they quickly realise their own value. We help them with courses and training to help people to hopefully gain full-time work.”

World Homeless Day aims to highlight the issue homelessness and what can be done to support more those in need.

Emmaus North East

Charity Emmaus North East is helping people who have found themselves without a home the chance to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives.

Its purpose-built venue in Stanhope Road, South Shields, currently has 15 formerly homeless people – known as companions –living within in.

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.

The three-storey building has 15 bedrooms, a kitchen area, living area and office spaces.

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.

Emmaus has charity shops in Hebburn and Low Fell , where companions work alongside local volunteers.

To find out more, visit Emmaus on social media on @emmausne or facebook.com/EmmausNE/ or visit the website www.emmaus.org.uk/northeast.