John Penrose MP...

Most weeks I head off to Parliament on the train each Monday morning. But this week is different. I'm working in a community for homeless

Most weeks I head off to Parliament on the train each Monday morning. But this week is different. I'm working in a community for homeless people in Bristol - the Emmaus Centre in the Dings neighbourhood. It's not far from St Paul's, and a very long way from the dreaming spires of Westminster. The aim is to get my hands dirty. I'm working alongside the homeless so I can see what life is like for the most vulnerable people in modern Britain. It's easy for MPs to get detached from reality in Westminster, but this ought to be a pretty good antidote.The Emmaus Centre is a really impressive place, with some amazing people. Its motto is that it offers homeless people a bed, and a reason to get out of it. It isn't just providing homeless people with a clean, safe place to live, although that would be a step up for many of them. It is offering - and expecting - a lot more as well. To start with, homeless people in Emmaus have to sign off all their benefits, except for housing. That means they're all on the same level; everyone is equal. Then they have to commit to no drink on the premises, or drugs. And they have to do 40 hours work a week in the Emmaus workshop, repairing second-hand furniture for sale in its warehouse. All this rebuilds their self-confidence by proving they can cope with normal life. But the chance to help other homeless people in the centre is a big piece of it too. Helping other people turns out to be an essential part of rebuilding a life for many people in an Emmaus community. It's a step on the road back into normal society for them. It's probably not a bad motto for the rest of us either.


You may also want to watch:


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter