Charity fighting homelessness in Cambridge marks 30th anniversary

  • Watch Matthew Hudson's report for ITV News Anglia

A charity that supports homeless people in Cambridge is celebrating its 30th birthday.

Emmaus Cambridge was set up in 1991 to help rough sleepers rebuild their lives. An open day has been held to mark the anniversary.

Diane Docherty, Emmaus Cambridge CEO, said: "The charity is about giving because you, the people, give to us and that is what enables us to help people to learn and grow and gain their self respect back and just become happy members of society."

The charity Emmaus Cambridge has been celebrating its 30th anniversary. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Over thirty years Emmaus has created an oasis of calm and order. Those who live here, Companions as they're known, work on site for their keep in any way they can.

They move into a basic room, but are encouraged to turn it into a home for themselves. 

Jonathon Cook has been here nearly four years.

"There's an equality here," he said. "We all have different skills and we're encouraged to use those skills but we're all equal. Nobody is better than anybody else.

"I think if you were to line up the companions and the staff along that wall over there you'd be hard pushed to say that person's a staff member, that person's a companion."

Emmaus Cambridge has been helping homeless people to turn their lives around for 30 years. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Emmaus UK now has 29 sites but Cambridge was the first. 

The idea brought here by Selwyn Image from France which already had many such communities.

Selwyn Image said: "Part of self respect is being able to give again rather than take. One of the tragedies of living on the streets is you feel the whole world and the whole system is against you so you turn into an animal who literally takes."

The charity's president is writer, broadcaster and former Middle East hostage Terry Waite.

"People who've been really down on their luck, who've been wandering the streets sometimes for years, have come in here and have changed their lives because they've been given an opportunity.

"And that's what Emmaus does. Gives people an opportunity."