The South Tyneside-Based Charity Changing the Lives of Homeless People in the North East
South Tyneside-based charity Emmaus North East support formerly homeless people and those at risk of homelessness. Their work is more important now than ever, as chief executive officer Ruth Parker explains
According to the charity’s strategic plan, South Tyneside has more homeless people than some of the larger cities in the North East, and this has only been made worse by the cost-of-living crisis. Nearly 30 percent of children are living in poverty and more than 40 percent of people are classed as deprived. The charity offers permanent accommodation to formerly homeless people or those who have been at risk of homelessness, who are referred to as companions. ‘The companions are provided with their own room, meals, training and work,’ Ruth explains. ‘When they become part of the community, they are given an individual support plan, are registered with a GP and optician and are referred to other specialist services where appropriate. We also help them set up bank accounts and arrange for ID.
‘The companions are provided with training and work to enhance their skill set which may help them to live in their own accommodation and find other suitable employment, but there is always the option to remain with Emmaus North East.’
The charity has supported more than 100 companions in the last two years and 60 percent of their team have previously been companions. They have several social enterprises and a workshop in South Shields where new furniture is made and other items are upcycled for sale. ‘The companions have told us that this has a positive impact on their mental health and self esteem,’ Ruth says. ‘We have three retail outlets in Hebburn, Low Fell and Shields where companions work and gain skills in customer service, finance, health and safety and merchandising. Solidarity is important to us and our community laundry [which opened on 28th February] will be a free-of-charge facility where the community can wash and dry their clothing and have a warm community space.’
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Ruth joined Emmaus North East as its CEO last year, having previously been the CEO of Victims First Northumbria. ‘I am passionate about supporting vulnerable people and helping them to make lifelong positive changes,’ she says. ‘The job is unpredictable and often challenging, but also brings with it many rewards. I am also supported by a great team of staff and volunteers who are very committed to their work and to the cause.
‘I believe in giving people a second chance to move on with their lives. Many of the companions have suffered trauma as children and adults, some of which have led them to have a dependency and be in a difficult financial position. None of them have chosen to be on the streets but that is where they have ended up. The fact that we can change that overnight by providing a home and safe space is so rewarding. I also meet many lovely people who trust me and the team to help them on their next journey through life.’
Ruth is hoping to increase understanding about the problems faced by homeless people. ‘Unfortunately too many people think a homeless person has ended up on the streets through their own actions and are dependent on drugs and alcohol,’ she says. ‘That is not true in many, many cases. Prevention and education is also a really important part of our message. We always need more income which will allow us to support more people. People can help by visiting and supporting our social enterprises. We will be increasing our volunteer workforce and anyone interested in volunteering can make contact with us.’
Goods: The team will accept most household items and will sell, recycle and generate income from everything you give them.
Money: As a small, independent charity, every penny they raise from donations goes straight back into the community.
Time: Volunteering is a rewarding way to give back and Emmaus North East are always seeking passionate people to help them in their shops.
Partnership: If you run a company or organisation, you can partner with the charity, for example by choosing them as your Charity of the Year, involving your team in fundraising activities or challenges, or setting up payroll giving.