Sir Terry Waite has spoken about how his experience in captivity changed his sympathy for homeless people to empathy, because he knows what it feels like to be “treated as worthless” and “have nothing.”

Saturday 18 November marked 32 years since Sir Terry Waite was released from captivity after he was taken captive in 1987, while working as a hostage negotiator in Lebanon. He spent 1,763 days in captivity, the first four years of which were in solitary confinement. He became President of Emmaus UK shortly after his release.

Sir Terry was knighted by King Charles at Buckingham Palace earlier this month, travelling to Emmaus Greenwich directly after the investiture ceremony to celebrate with people with experience of homelessness as well as staff and trustees from across the Emmaus federation.

Speaking to the Big Issue at the event, he said: “If you’re on the streets you’re alone, you are victimised. I know what it’s like to be kicked around and treated as worthless.

“One of the good things about captivity, for me, I’ve always had sympathy for homeless [people], for the people on the margins of life. But that sympathy was changed to empathy, because empathy is to know what it’s like. And I know what it’s like for some of these men and women who have nothing.”

Sir Terry also spoke about comments made by former home secretary Suella Braverman claiming homelessness is a ‘lifestyle choice’. He asked: “Where is the compassion for these people? What are they supposed to live in, a cardboard box?”

Emmaus UK Chief Executive, Charlotte Talbott, is also quoted in the article that has been published in the Big Issue.

She said: “Rough sleeping is dangerous and it’s life limiting. Nobody wants to see people sleeping on the streets, but the point is that we need to address the issues that lead to people staying on the streets, or experiencing difficulties in moving off the street. Not focusing on tents.”

Emmaus offers people a home for as long as it is needed, along with meaningful work, training, and individual support. Currently more than 850 people live at communities stretching from Glasgow to Dover. Each one has at least one shop or social enterprise, which offer people the chance to gain skills, build a routine and contribute to the community. They also help to raise vital funds for that community.