An early tragedy led to 25 years living on the streets for formerly homeless man Tony Welch. Tony (44) has been supported to turn his life around thanks to Emmaus Village Carlton.

Tony now works as a chef for our charity and is sharing his story on World Homeless Day (10 October) to thank Emmaus for saving his life.

When Tony was 15 his parents and sister died following a gas explosion at home:

“I had no other family to go to and ended up living on the streets. For 25 years I didn’t have a home. I slept wherever I could: in hostels, in night shelters, in tents, under bridges and occasionally on friends’ sofas. At first people could see how young, vulnerable and scared I was so I used to get attacked a lot. I had to provide my own food, but without a job or qualifications I had to beg for money. Often my only option was to steal in order to survive.”

Eventually, problems with drug use led Tony to seek help to battle his addiction. Once clean, he approached Emmaus Village Carlton who offered a home and support for as long as he needed it:

“They gave me accommodation, clothes and food, but unlike most other places they also gave me support and the chance to work.

“Emmaus paid all my bills and I could focus on getting back on track.”

“They made sure I was looking after myself and I could access counselling and training courses to learn new skills.”

Emmaus Village Carlton supports 42 formerly homeless people by giving them accommodation, meaningful work experience in a social enterprise, funded training and an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild their lives. Funds are raised through our Home Store charity shop and bistro, with local people donating unwanted items for resale.

During his time at Emmaus Village Carlton, Tony found the stability he needed to rebuild his life:

“I helped to run the bistro for about a year and then recently the bistro chef job came up and they encouraged me to apply for it. I was so pleased when I got the job. It’s a big step for me. Emmaus are paying for my Level 2 Diploma in Catering, as well as providing accommodation as I adjust to life with paid work and save some money. In future I would really like to set up a business using my catering skills. Doors are opening for me now. Two years ago, when I was homeless, I struggled to read and write; now I have a home, a job and I’m going to college. I owe Emmaus a lot; I’m employed by the organisation that saved my life and it means so much that people have faith in me.”

If you have been inspired by Tony’s story, find out how you can help Emmaus Village Carlton. It can be as simple as donating unwanted furniture, old clothing or bric-a-brac, or visiting our on-site Home Store and bistro, enabling us to continue our vital work with formerly homeless people across Bedfordshire.