HUMANITARIAN, author and former hostage Terry Waite visited Burnley to mark the first birthday of the establishment of a homeless charity in the town.
Mr Waite, president of Emmaus UK, visited Emmaus House in Old Hall Street and the Emmaus shop in Ivy Street where companions, as they are known, work and sell goods for the charity.
Mr Waite was an envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, when he was taken hostage in Lebanon in 1987 while trying to negotiate the release of others. He was in captivity for 1,763 days until his release in November 1991.
Speaking about Emmaus Burnley and how the charity has a deep personal affiliation, he said: “I can understand what it’s like to be on the edge of life. The plight of the homeless has a deep resonance for me.
“I survived in captivity because I managed to keep hope alive. That is what Emmaus gives to our companions.
“I am impressed with Emmaus House in Burnley – remarkable progress has been made, the home is clean and bright.
“Crucially, the work of the companions in refurbishing and selling furniture helps to keep a roof over their head.
“This is important as it helps the companions regain their dignity and feel like they are contributing to society.”
Mr Waite, who attended a fund-raising dinner for Emmaus at Rolls-Royce, Barnoldswick, urged local businesses to support the charity, which hopes to open a one-stop-shop for the community at the former South West Burnley Enterprise Centre. He also praised the work of Emmaus Burnley chairman, former MP Peter Pike.
Mr Pike said: “Terry is a tremendous ambassador for Emmaus but is also very hands-on. It is always a pleasure to welcome him to Burnley.
“Burnley was identified as a problem area for homelessness, and it is a problem I foresee only getting worse due to the current economic climate. We have 15 companions in Burnley at the moment with two more to come soon. We have room for 24.
“Every case is different and there is a vast range of ages. The most satisfying thing is seeing our companions find a job and find their own home, which has happened in Burnley.”
Wes Chaudry is in charge of training and development for the companions and organises NVQ courses for them.
He said: “The courses give our companions a better chance of finding work outside Emmaus and we have already had a number who have found work.”
To find out more visit www.emmausburnley.org.uk or call 01282 430860.