South Shields men who faced homelessness share experiences at Royal lunch with Duchess of Cornwall
Two men who battled back from homelessness after getting help to turn their lives around have shared their experiences at a Royal lunch with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
Aaron Scullion was one of thirty people who have been supported by Emmaus communities across the UK to be invited to the lunch with The Duchess, and explain how the charity has made a difference to his life.
The event was held to celebrate thirty years since homelessness charity Emmaus was established in the UK.
The event took place at Clarence House, the royal residence of the charity’s Royal patron.
As one of the thirty primary guests, Aaron was able to invite Emmaus North East companion Michael Ashby, to join him as his guest.
Aaron joined Emmaus North East in 2019 after struggling with social housing for more than five years, eventually becoming street homeless.
In March 2021, exactly three years after joining the community at Emmaus North East, Aaron was offered full-time employment within the charity as a companion and volunteer development worker.
He remains in his post today and works closely with beneficiaries of the charity to help them rebuild their lives.
Aaron said: "I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit London and meet The Duchess. I met some companions and staff from other communities and we shared some stories and ideas.
"I finally met Terry Waite CBE (President of Emmaus UK) for the first time in the four years I've been with Emmaus and he was such a gentleman. My trip meant a lot to me because I probably will never do anything like that again, plus I've made a few professional contacts."
Michael said: "I really enjoyed my trip to London. I feel it helped with my mental health because I had two days away from my local area and I really enjoyed meeting other companions and staff from different communities.
"My trip meant a lot to me because I have never been to London, never mind meeting someone from the Royal family. It's a memory that may never be replicated."
Charlotte Talbott, chief executive of Emmaus UK, said: “We are extremely grateful to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and the staff at Clarence House for hosting a fantastic 30 year celebration event.
"Countless lives have been transformed in Emmaus communities and groups over the past 30 years and it was important to be able to bring some of those people together, along with their guests, to mark this important point in our history.
"It was a great day and a fitting tribute, and I look forward to seeing Emmaus reach even more people over the next 30 years.”
The event on Wednesday, November 10, 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 by providing them with a safe home, training, tailored support and meaningful work in a social enterprise.
Emmaus North East supports 20 formerly homeless people (known as companions) by providing them with a stable home, personal support and meaningful work for as long as they need it.
The charity opened its doors in 2017 and has since supported more than 80 people who have experienced homelessness.
The charity sells a wide range of donated and refurbished furniture, household items, electrical appliances, clothes, bric-a-brac and bikes from its three charity shop sites in Hebburn, Low Fell and South Shields.
It also runs Lucie’s Pantry, a social supermarket located at the Old Post Office in South Shields.
There are currently 28 Emmaus communities across the country, supporting more than 800 formerly homeless people in the UK. In addition, there are five Emmaus groups, all of which are working towards setting up an Emmaus community in their area.