Formerly homeless man gives back to Bedford charity that helped turn his life around

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Nigel Bunney at Emmaus

A formerly homeless man is now in his own home and volunteering for local charity Emmaus Village Carlton that helped him overcome a life-time of mental health issues and alcoholism.

Nigel Bunney (59) lost his job and home after decades of alcohol dependence and mental health issues.

“I was at school when I first experienced mental health problems, but no-one recognised what it was,” said Nigel.

“For years I got no support for my mental health and finally things came to a head – I lost my job and home.”

With nowhere to go, Nigel found himself sleeping rough on the streets of Luton for four months.

“It was such a tough and scary thing to go through; my depression worsened and I was eventually sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

“This was my turning point. It made me realise I actually had mental health problems. My drinking exaggerated those problems and I needed support to help me stop.”

Hearing about homelessness charity Emmaus, Nigel reached out to ask for their help.

A recent survey conducted by Emmaus found that mental health support was one of the most common requests from formerly homeless people.

The team at Emmaus Village Carlton ensured Nigel had access to the support he needed to begin to turn his life around.

“When I first arrived I had no self-confidence, but having a room of my own was a big deal. You can’t underestimate the feeling of finally having a safe place of your own – to have a home.

“Regular mental health support on top of that meant that day-by-day, things gradually started to get better.”

Based in the Bedfordshire village of Carlton, Emmaus Village Carlton supports 42 formerly homeless people by providing them with a home and work in a community setting.

Every person’s experiences are unique and so a dedicated support team is on-hand to help with whatever issues arise. It is one of 33 Emmaus charities across the UK, supporting more than 800 people who have experienced homelessness.

Nigel found the stability he needed to rebuild his life: “I helped to run the Emmaus Village Carlton Home Store – a charity shop which raises funds.

Work gave me a routine after the chaos of my life beforehand. Suddenly I had a reason to get up in the morning. I had support to address my problems and I felt safe and much happier.”

After 18 months at Emmaus Village Carlton, Nigel recently felt ready to move on and is applying for jobs.

“The team helped me find a new home and I now live nearby in supported housing. I come back to volunteer every week, helping to PAT test electrical items before they are sold in the Home Store.

“I owe Emmaus so much and it’s my way of giving back. The support team are always around if I find I do need to talk. I know my mental health problems are never going away completely but I’m so much more confident now.

I’ve started to apply for jobs and hope that soon I’ll be able to start back in employment. Emmaus helped me get back on my own two feet and I’ll always be grateful.”

Anyone interested in supporting or working with Emmaus Village Carlton can find out more by visiting www.emmaus.org.uk/village_carlton.