Homeless charity coming to Norwich

An international homeless charity that already has 19 communities in the UK is coming to Norwich in April when it will be officially opened by its national chairman Terry Waite.

Emmaus Communities offer homeless people a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives in a supportive environment, but they are not for everyone.

To join a community, people must give up their benefits and abide by its rules, for example not bringing drugs or alcohol into the community.

Each community aims to become self-supporting, with any surplus donated to others in need.

Companions, as residents are known, receive accommodation, food, clothing and a small weekly allowance.

They work full time collecting, renovating and reselling donated furniture, which helps them develop skills, rebuild their self-respect and help others in greater need.

The Emmaus charity is a secular movement, spanning 36 countries, with 19 communities already in the UK.

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Rev Simon Ward, the Bishop of Norwich's chaplain, is one of Emmaus Norwich's trustees.

He said Emmaus Norwich had already found a potential home for up to 25 homeless people, but said it was unlikely that people would be living there before Terry Waite's visit on April 12.

He said: 'Our vision is to establish an Emmaus community in Norfolk, but there is still a long way to go. We are not at the planning stage yet.

'However, the sisters at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham, near Bungay, have agreed that the companions can live in their building.

'Emmaus offers a supportive, stable environment. It's more than a hostel and not just a bed for the night, as the residents become part of the community.

'But Emmaus charities don't work for every homeless person.

'The residents have to come off benefits and agree to work as part of the community.

'We are conscious that by opening something like this, there will be some people in the community who object.'

The first fund-raising event for the charity was held at the Ribs of Beef pub's annual carols concert in Norwich last month.

The Emmaus community in Norwich will be funded by a social enterprise in the form of a cafe as well as the refurbishment and sale of donated furniture and other household items.

For more information visit www.emmaus.org.uk/Norwich.