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Formerly homeless Preston charity rep enjoys lunch with The Duchess of Cornwall

Posted on - 19th November, 2021 - 8:05pm | Author - | Posted in - Charities, People, Preston News, Proud Preston
Guests from Emmaus with Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall and Emmaus UK President Terry Waite

A Preston charity rep has attended lunch at Clarence House with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

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Karen is Emmaus’ Head of Support in Lancashire and attended an event at the royal residence of the charity’s Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall.

She is a former Emmaus Preston service user and spent 15 years homeless and in temporary accommodation. The event marked thirty years since the establishment of the homelessness charity in the UK.

Karen was one of thirty people supported by Emmaus communities across the UK invited to the lunch.

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Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall with Karen and David Wallis from Emmaus

Karen said: “When I got to the official residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, it was just wow!

“It was amazing seeing Clarence House and imagining what it’s like to live upstairs. When I went in, and they showed us around and greeted everyone, there were family photos all over the place, of their kids and the Queen and Prince Philip taking pride of place.

“It’s not the sort of opportunity that comes along every day. Her Royal Highness was so welcoming and kind.

“When I was talking to Her Royal Highness, I said, who would’ve thought someone who was sleeping in toilets and on the streets is now meeting royalty in Clarence House, and she smiled at me.

“It was also great to see everyone from different communities within Emmaus. It’s been an absolutely amazing day and one that I’ll never forget.”

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Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall cutting the cake marking the 30th anniversary of Emmaus in the UK

Each guest invited someone who was part of their journey at Emmaus, and Karen chose to bring her husband Dave, whom she met while they were both supported.

Karen joined Emmaus Preston in 2012.

With the space and stability to rebuild her life, Karen progressed through several training courses, which resulted in her gaining a support worker role at Emmaus Preston in 2015.

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In November, Karen was selected as Head of Support, managing Emmaus staff across Lancashire.

During her time with Emmaus, Karen has been to the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street to lobby Lords and MPs to call for better support for people who want to break the homelessness cycle. She also married Dave, whom she lives with outside the community.

Karen said: “Because I was one of these people, it’s good to go out with the outreach team. Whether it is giving clothes, a sleeping bag or signposting them to services. It could just be someone to talk to.

“When you are homeless, people imagine you as a non-entity. I’m poles apart from where I started. I didn’t think there was light at the end of the tunnel.

“To have my own home and work is thanks to Emmaus. Through this meeting with Her Royal Highness, I hope my story shows homeless people can turn their lives around.”

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On returning to Preston, Dave worked a night shift, and the night after, Karen went out with the outreach service, Free Streets, which provides assistance and advice to people sleeping on the streets through the evening and early hours.

Charlotte Talbott, Chief Executive of Emmaus UK, said: “We are extremely grateful to Her Royal Highness, 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. It was important to bring some of those people together to mark this 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!”

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Due to the pandemic, the 10 November event was the first in-person event celebrating the milestone anniversary. It reflected what the charity has achieved in the past three decades.

Emmaus was brought to the UK from France in 1991. 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.

For more information about Karen’s life, visit – https://emmaus.org.uk/preston/story/karens-story/

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