Frontline: Emmaus

Graham Willgoss

What it is - A charity for the homeless that offers a place to live and work in a supportive community environment

What it does - In its own words: "Gives homeless people a bed and a reason to get out of it." It supports homeless residents and acts as a self-sustaining business recycling consumer goods

How it's funded - Residents work full time refurbishing donated furniture and household goods and selling them in Emmaus community shops. It also receives lottery funding and grants from the Homelessness Directorate

- Inspired by a comment from a homeless man to a businessman, Selwyn Image, Emmaus was established in the UK in Cambridge in 1992. When Image asked him what he wanted, the man replied: "I want to work and belong.

I want my self-respect back. I don't want to queue for handouts or have to beg for food. And I don't want people to cross the street to avoid me." The supportive environment in the UK's 11 Emmaus communities underpins a revenue-generating business, for which all residents, known as 'companions', work a 40-hour week. They take items, donated by the public, that might otherwise have been thrown away, then refurbish and sell them. Emmaus provides residents with training geared to their individual needs: companions working in community kitchens receive training in health and safety and hygiene; driving lessons are provided for those who drive the vans through which the charity provides a collection service of donated items; and many are trained in basic literacy and numeracy.

Terry Waite, president of Emmaus UK, is keen to stress that each companion is valued and accepted within their community. He says: "Emmaus gives people a chance to get back on their feet, to be trusted and regain their self-esteem, and to be recognised as people with a positive future, not dependent on handouts."

Based on principles of sharing and working for others in greater need, Emmaus also donates any surplus funds to other charities. It raised more than £12,000 for the Asian tsunami appeal through special sales and donations.

Communications officer Rosie Jack says: "Emmaus enables people who have been through difficult periods to give something back to people in greater need than themselves."

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