Guests at a gala dinner held at the Eden Project heard how a new centre to provide accommodation and work for homeless people is to be established on the Eden site.

Emmaus is working with the Eden Project on the plan, with support from St Petrocs charity which campaigns to end street homelessness in Cornwall.

Emmaus currently has 29 established communities in the UK, along with four groups who are working towards establishing a community in their area. Emmaus provides a home, work experience, training and support to formerly homeless people as they develop the skills and confidence to rebuild their lives. Such a community at Eden would be a first for Cornwall.

The fundraising dinner, which took place on Thursday 11 April, featured four top speakers. Emmaus UK President Terry Waite CBE was joined by Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder of the Eden Project, Steve Ellis, Chief Executive of St Petrocs, and Raynor Winn, author of the best-selling memoir “The Salt Path.”

Terry Waite has been an ambassador of Emmaus UK for more than 25 years. He spoke of the loneliness and isolation he felt while being held hostage for five years in Lebanon, and described homelessness as one of the scandals of our age.

He said: “When you come to the Eden Project, you are reminded that we need to live in harmony with the environment. The added dimension of an Emmaus community here will emphasise the point that we need to live in harmony with our fellow man.”

“The community at Eden could be globally significant. Emmaus has 29 communities in the UK. Let’s hope this will be number 30.”

Sir Tim Smit spoke of the power of bringing ordinary people together to create something extraordinary.

He said: “We believe we can build this community in the middle of a nurturing place, where work will be available, where people will not fear not having work, where you can work your way in, rediscover who you are and have a horizon that is really promising.”

Sir Tim added that Eden would provide the land and urged the dinner guests to rally behind the project: “If you can help with a few bricks, a few pieces of wood, a few hugs for a few people, we can all make it happen.”

Steve Ellis outlined the work Eden already does to help homeless people, including hosting the annual Sleep Out fund-raising night. The last event helped St Petrocs provide emergency night shelters in Truro and Penzance over the winter and raised £17,000 for the charity and the Amber Foundation.

He spoke of the need for more to be done to help homeless people in Cornwall: “Our beds are full – all the organisations that work in this sector are equally full. Emmaus will be very welcome in Cornwall.

“We hope that the project goes well, and we hope that all of our citizens can be treated with respect and dignity and have the opportunity to live in safety and security.”

Raynor Winn spoke of her and her husband’s experience of suddenly becoming homeless and then walking and wild camping on the South West Coast Path, a life-affirming experience she turned into her book, The Salt Path.

She said: “Emmaus gives homeless people that sense of possibility, that reason to go on, and a sense of community. I hope that we can all support Emmaus and the Eden Project in whatever way we can to achieve their ambition because we really need this here in Cornwall.”

More than 150 guests attended the dinner. Speakers were introduced by Richard Williams, a trustee of Emmaus Cornwall and a member of the joint Eden/Emmaus working group.

The group has started to look at options to provide accommodation and work for homeless people on land owned by Eden, just outside of the main visitor attraction near St Austell. It is hoped that there might be a community in place by the end of 2020.