To celebrate 30 years since Emmaus was established in the UK, one of our companions, Dapper Dave, recently attended a lunch event at Clarence House, the royal residence of the Emmaus’s Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall.

On Wednesday 10 November, Dave was one of 30 people supported by Emmaus communities across the UK to be invited to the lunch with The Duchess, and to share with her how the charity has made a difference to his life.

Dave (64) joined our community in August 2019 after becoming homeless. The passing of his parents, a marriage breakdown and tragically losing his two sons in two separate car accidents hit Dave hard and left him feeling like he had no future. Struggling with depression, Dave fell behind with his rent payments before getting evicted from his flat and spending one month sleeping in a tent.

Now living with us at Emmaus Bristol, Dave has found the space and stability he needs to start rebuilding his life and came off his anti-depressants within four months of joining us. As part of our support offering, Dave now works in our three shops in Stokes Croft, Bedminster and on Gloucester Road to learn new skills and support the Emmaus Bristol community he now calls home.

Dave was thrilled to attend the royal event, and said:

“I never in a million years thought I would be invited to such a prestigious event. I was so proud to represent Emmaus Bristol. Not only did I get to speak with the great Terry Waite, I then had a good five minutes speaking with The Duchess of Cornwall. It was a great honour. She was so warm and friendly. She has a great sense of humour and put me at ease, saying she’d been admiring my hat from the other room!”

Each guest was also able to invite someone who was part of their journey at Emmaus to attend the event. Dave invited Francesca Blishen, our Support Team Manager.

“I had the option to invite a guest and I chose Francesca as she was the most influential and helpful person who got me into Emmaus Bristol and basically saved my life. Emmaus Bristol has given me a reason to live and carry on, knowing that what I do each day is helping people just like me.”

Francesca Blishen, Support Team Manager at Emmaus Bristol, said:

“David has experienced so much tragedy in his life, and because of how it affected him, he ended up living in a tent in the countryside. Luckily a small charity, Gateway Sidmouth, found David and got him to us for an interview. David talked about his difficult life, but all the time he kept talking of hope and making funny jokes. He ended cheering up the support staff! The event at Clarence House was wonderful, and I am grateful to David for asking me along. The Duchess of Cornwall was so gracious and patient, meeting everyone and showing a real interest.”

The event was part of Emmaus’s 30th anniversary celebrations, reflecting on what the charity has achieved in the past three decades. Emmaus was brought to the UK from France in 1991, and there are now 29 communities supporting more than 850 formerly homeless people. Emmaus Bristol opened in 2003 and has been supporting people for nearly 20 years.

You can read Dave’s story here.