Ex-hostage Terry Waite at Norwich Cathedral to promote new homelessness charity

Ex-hostage Terry Waite is in Norwich tonight promoting the homelessness charity Emmaus UK, of which he is president.

Mr Waite addressed a crowd of several hundred at Norwich Cathedral and explained what the charity did and urged people to support it in Norfolk.

Emmaus Norwich, which will be the 21st Emmaus community in the UK, is being set up at All Hallows convent in Ditchingham, near Bungay, where up to 25 homeless people will live and work later this year.

Emmaus communities offer homeless people a home, work and the chance to rebuild their lives, but they must sign off unemployment benefits and not brings drugs or alcohol into the community.

Mr Waite, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, was working as a Church of England envoy when he was captured on a hostage negotiation mission to Lebanon in 1987. He was held for 1,760 days before being released in 1991.

He said: 'I hope we will get some good support in Norfolk, once people see how Emmaus functions and that it's nothing like the concept of a dosshouse. Emmaus does not patronise the homeless. It enables people to get back on their feet and regain their dignity as human beings. You cannot stereotype homeless people as it can happen to anyone.'

He said his experience as a hostage enabled him to empathise with homelessness.

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'I had that experience of deprivation and being in a deprived state when I was in captivity,' he said.

Each Emmaus community aims to become self-supporting, and 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.

Further details about the work of Emmaus can be found at www.emmausnorwich.org/.

Are you setting up a new charity in Norwich? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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