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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Archbishop reflects on visit to Emmaus Homeless Community

Friday 22nd February 2008

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York spent time during their joint visit to Cambridge looking at the Churches' response to homelessness by visiting the Emmaus Community in Landbeach.

The Emmaus Community at Landbeach is one of 14 centres in the UK that offers a home for up to thirty people who were formerly homeless which provides not only shelter but work in accordance with the principles of acceptance, sharing, working for others of greater need and self respect. Emmaus Communities enable people to move on from homelessness, providing work and a home in a supportive, family environment. Companions, as residents are known, work full time collecting renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the Community financially and enables residents to develop skills and rebuild their self-respect.

Dr Williams reflected on the visit and on his concern for the very vulnerable in society saying, "I'm quite worried about what we see but also about the hidden elements in many cities where people are in vulnerable short-term accommodation and that's not always registered as homelessness, so people who do have a roof over their heads are still in some sense homeless because they have no security. And what's wonderful about this project, about Emmaus generally, is of course that it's not just a soup kitchen. As you can see, it actually gives people skills, it keeps them occupied, and it allows them to make a living which is ploughed back into the community life. And that sort of constructive work which gives people their dignity is hugely important I think".

When asked about the practicalities of engaging with vulnerable individuals on the edge of society Dr Williams said, "I think we start by not being frightened of them. We start by being willing to talk to them, ask their names and engage with them. And then, you know, projects like this give them a chance to show what they're capable of".

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