Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Waite in homeless appeal

Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite is appealing to Scottish businesses to help him establish the country's first working community for the homeless.

As president of Emmaus, an organisation dedicated to helping homeless people in Britain, Mr Waite hopes to establish a community in the Possilpark area of Glasgow by the end of 2004.

The project would house 24 people in purpose-built accommodation units and also encourage them to become self-sufficient by giving them jobs within the community.

Nine other Emmaus communities throughout the UK have already proved successful by becoming self-sufficient.

Setting up a Glasgow community is now a priority for the organisation as the city is estimated to have one of the UK's biggest percentages of people sleeping rough.

Mr Waite said the aim of the Possilpark project was to give people a chance to "get back on their feet".

He added: "It will help them to be trusted and regain their self-esteem, and to be recognised as individuals with a positive future, not dependent on handouts.

"We have all types of people in our communities who just could not settle in normal life. We offer them a chance in life.

"Once a community gets off the ground it becomes self supporting so we are are not constantly asking for funds or money."

Accommodation and training

The organisation is currently £200,000 short of its £2.5m target.

Mr Waite has been approaching businesses in Glasgow asking them for assistance.

It is hoped that funding will be found to allow the doors of the Possilpark community to open by November 2004.

A spokesman for Emmaus said: "We provide a unique solution to helping long-term unemployed homeless people rebuild their lives - individual accommodation, communal supported living environment, work and life-skills training, plus real work in a socially and environmentally sustainable recycling business."

Devoted to humanitarian causes, inter-cultural relations, and conflict resolution, Mr Waite CBE received international recognition during the 1980s when, serving as a special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he successfully negotiated the release of hostages in Iran and Libya.

In 1987, while negotiating the release of hostages in Beirut, Mr Waite was himself taken hostage. He was in captivity for 1,763 days, nearly five years.

He said: "This is a very worthwhile project and one that I am passionate about. To see people rebuilding their lives and getting their self-esteem and confidence back is encouraging."