Norfolk charity gives a new hope to the homeless

Companion Michael at Emmaus Norwich, Ditchingham.

Companion Michael at Emmaus Norwich, Ditchingham. - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk charity is making Christmas a much happier time for people who would otherwise be facing the festive period homeless.

Matt, a companion at Emmaus Norwich, at Ditchingham.

Matt, a companion at Emmaus Norwich, at Ditchingham. - Credit: Archant

Emmaus is a worldwide charity which provides a home and meaningful employment for those who have had the misfortune to become homeless.

Emmaus Norwich, based in Ditchingham, gives new hope to the 'companions' who are living and working there.

Two companions explain what a difference the charity has made to their lives.

Michael, 55 and originally from Lewisham, was homeless for a number of years. His life involved working hard in the building trade and binging hard, a permanent battle with drink, which started when he was a 15 year old. Michael ended up on the streets living under cardboard boxes, living in a field and wondering where the next bit of food was coming from.

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Eventually Michael made a decision to change his life and sought help in dealing with his heavy drinking.

He said: 'I had sorted my head out and was used to hard work so doing things like moving furniture was enjoyable for me. I really liked being there as there was no pressure and I felt safe. I am a bit of a loner, not a mixer, but apart from the odd personality clash, the companions got on well.'

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Matt, 43, is a local man, who has been a companion for nine months. A flippant remark to him about Emmaus in Ditchingham resulted in him searching for the charity on Google.

He said: 'I'd never heard of it although I lived and worked just a few miles away.'

Companions come from all sorts of backgrounds and Matt had skills which meant he was able to fill a few holes. He had IT skills, knew about social media and was able to drive the van.

He said: 'This is the first job where I've been glad it's a work day and not wishing it wasn't.'

Matt is keen to develop his skills still further and with training provided by Emmaus to help him fill some of the gaps in his CV, he hopes to one day work for Emmaus as a staff member.

A companion may end up staying for just a few weeks or a few months or even longer.

The charity shop at Emmaus Norwich, Ditchingham, is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm with free parking.


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