Tuesday 17 February 2015

Duchess opens new Lambeth community

HRH Lambeth2

Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, officially opened St Luke’s, a new Emmaus residential community in Kennington. 

St Luke’s will provide a stable home to 27 formerly homeless people, known as companions, and has been developed due to a partnership between Emmaus Lambeth and the West London Mission. 

The Duchess, who is Royal Patron of Emmaus UK, was given a tour of the community by Emmaus companion, Craig Dunstan, who has lived at Emmaus since 2011, after being homeless for nine months. He has recently moved into the new accommodation block in Kennington and showed The Duchess his room during the tour. 

Craig said: “It was quite nerve-wracking knowing Her Royal Highness would be visiting, but as soon as I was introduced she immediately put me at ease. As I was showing the Duchess around she asked a lot of questions about Emmaus Lambeth and told me about her visits to other communities over in the UK and France.

"She took a lot of interest in everyone she met and wanted to know how they came to be at Emmaus and how long they had lived here.  It’s good to know we have such a supportive patron.” 

The addition of this new building means Emmaus Lambeth will be able to provide a home and meaningful work to 54 companions, double the number they could accommodate at their first community site in West Norwood.

As well as having a stable home at Emmaus, companions also have meaningful work in one of the charity’s six social enterprises, charity shops selling high quality second-hand furniture. 

The partnership with the West London Mission came about when WLM were looking for a new use for their community accommodation at St Luke’s, a building they have used for homeless people since the 1940s.  As part of the partnership, WLM will run the St Luke’s Hub, a community space for local residents. One initiative they run is ‘money champions’, a programme that teaches people how to get the right help with financial issues.  Another course is ‘Digi-Buddies’ which involves local people helping others to learn IT skills.  

This focus on providing practical training and skills is also a priority for Emmaus Lambeth, which has a training room that is used by companions who are ready to move on from the community, providing them with training and support with their financial management in order to prepare them for independent living. 

James Hayes, Chief Executive of Emmaus Lambeth, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to have Her Royal Highness visit us today and really show off the great work that we’re doing with the West London Mission. This partnership has meant we have been able to double the size of our community and create more places than ever for people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion. 

“I’m especially proud to see how much of the work to this building has been carried out by companions, who have been creating their own home here. We know there is an increasing demand for our services, so these extra spaces will give us the opportunity to help dozens of people to get off the streets and back into a stable home.” 

Jon Kuhrt, Executive Director of WLM, said: “WLM first started working with homeless people at St Luke’s back in 1945 so the building has a great history of supporting marginalised and vulnerable people.  Today, our partnership with Emmaus has enabled an exciting phase in its life.  We have forged a strong partnership with Emmaus and it has been wonderful to see their companions work so hard in bringing the building back into full use again. 

“We are also very excited about how the hub is helping local people in Lambeth access finances and computer skills. These innovative projects are helping prevent more people from becoming homeless in the future."