WORK on a major expansion of the Emmaus centre in Winchester is starting.

The charity that helps formerly homeless people is expanding at its base in Bar End.

On Wednesday December 4, Emmaus Hampshire welcomed over 100 companions and supporters to celebrate a highly successful year helping the county’s homeless.

This has seen record sales in its upcycled furniture shops and £250,000 secured for a project to accommodate eight more formerly-homeless people in its Winchester community.

Nigel Samuels, chief executive, said: “This is the story of a family. The companions and volunteers have continued to work together to develop the charity. Work starts today on our 40@20 construction project. This will enable eight more people to benefit from the happy and fulfilling community we have all created here.”

Companion occupancy levels are at a record high and the charity has secured additional funding for their training and development. Training, from furniture refurbishment courses and driving lessons to Spanish classes, plays a key role in rebuilding confidence and providing skills which help companions secure permanent employment and move on to independent living.

At heart of the celebrations was the work and dedication of the companions themselves.

Companions constantly demonstrate their support to those less fortunate than themselves through their Solidarity programme which has delivered £20,000 of resources to help families in poverty this year.

Companions Claire, Darren, Neil and Tony, along with volunteer Sue Joyce, were recognised with awards, including a weekend in Paris (organised by Room To Reward). Emmaus Hampshire’s dedicated team of volunteers will also enjoy afternoon tea donated by new charity partner, Hotel du Vin, on Southgate Street Winchester.

Emmaus Hampshire is already focusing on its future, with plans to open a fourth retail store, provide more accommodation and more actively participate in the fight for environmental change.