A CHARITY is turning an old army barracks in Bolton into a place where homeless people can live and work independently.

The Emmaus project taking shape in Derby Barracks, in Fletcher Street on the outskirts of Bolton town centre, will work with some of society's most disadvantaged people to offer them not just a home, but also the opportunity to get off benefits and involved in work to give them back self-respect and independence.

Facilities in the new centre will include living accommodation with bedrooms, communal living rooms, kitchens and a laundry. There will also be meeting rooms, a shop, workshops and a cafe in an extension.

Seven homeless people are already living there as building work progresses on the extensive buildings around them.

The next phase later this year will bring that number up to 12, and by next year it will rise to 21.

There are workshops where people living at the centre can refurbish and repair household items, including electrical appliances, and a furniture showroom which is also already open.

Here, good-value donated pieces and bric-a-brac are sold to the public.

The charity also runs a social furniture scheme for needy people who are referred to them.

Project manager Bob Jeffery said it was still early days at the barracks, so the charity has been quite low-key about its services. But it is all taking shape well.

A variety of grants, including a Lottery windfall of £232,000, in addition to help from local companies like William Hare and Warburtons and fundraising work have brought the charity within £50,000 of what is likely to be a £500,000 target.

The well-known barracks were home to the Bolton Artillery detachment of the Territorial Army for many years. Bolton Sea Cadets were housed there more recently, and the Army Cadets still meet regularly in "cottages" in its grounds.

But at the beginning of last year, after years of planning and fundraising, Emmaus bought the premises to tackle the plight of homeless men and women in the Bolton area.

Emmaus was set up in 1949 by war hero Abb Pierre to provide homes and work for the many people displaced during the Second World War.

His legacy has created more than 400 communities around the world and 13 in the UK.

l To find out more about the Emmaus project, ring Bob Jeffery on 01204 398056.