We support people from all walks of life, including those with no recourse to public funding. ‘Jane’, who wishes to remain anonymous, found herself facing homelessness after her her UK work permit expired.
I first heard of Emmaus when I started having problems with my immigration status. I had been living in the UK for several years, my work permit had expired and I was having difficulty trying to secure another one to stay in the country.
I couldn’t work and had no recourse to public funds, so I was struggling with finding accommodation. The council couldn’t help and all the women’s shelters couldn’t do anything for me. That’s when I found out about Emmaus online and applied immediately.
It was a Godsend when I was offered a place here in Bristol. I dread to think what would have become of me if there had been no Emmaus – I probably would’ve ended up on the street.
Emmaus was always very supportive of me with my case at the Home Office. They paid for my transportation to court cases, provided me with documentation as requested by the authorities, and let me have all the time off I needed from volunteering in the shop to go for appointments with my solicitor. During the time I was applying for a visa, the solicitor representing me made me aware of other refugee agencies that could aid me with food and money, but I never needed to use them as Emmaus provided me with all those.
When I first came to Emmaus I imagined that my legal situation would be sorted in six months and I could get a job and leave. As it turned out, it took three years before I secured a visa to stay in the UK. I couldn’t have done it without Emmaus and it was great knowing I wasn’t fighting my battles on my own.
I would say the best help Emmaus gave me (apart from a place to stay) was unlimited time.
I think I would have been in real trouble if they had only offered me a stay of, say, 6 to 12 months like other places do. Legal problems aside, you do need the time to recover and make plans to rebuild your life when it has caved in on you.
Another very positive thing Emmaus gives the companions is work. Rather than simply languishing and being a charity case, you have something constructive to do and learn new skills volunteering at Emmaus. It provides you with structure and stability. I eventually plan to move onto paid employment and have been seeing a job adviser provided by Emmaus. I know I can now plan a better future for myself with all the support I need.