Two years ago Dean Smith was homeless on the streets of Bedford, sleeping in doorways for shelter.
Now the 39-year-old is celebrating passing his driving test first time following support from homelessness charity Emmaus Village Carlton.
Dean found his mental health deteriorating in his late twenties, which eventually led to him sleeping rough for many weeks. His luck changed when Emmaus offered him a place in their community as a companion, with a home and meaningful work for as long as he needed it. Since then he has been receiving support and training to rebuild his self-esteem and move on with his life.
As part of his personal development, Dean was keen to pass his driving test, so he saved up to pay for his provisional license and theory test, which he passed first time. Dean went on to receive funding towards his driving lessons and test from the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund.
Dean said: “I’m really happy and relieved that I passed and I still can’t believe it. I’d like to say a big thank you to Emmaus Village Carlton, not only for supporting me through my driving lessons and test, but for helping me to turn my life around.
“Emmaus are also putting me through my bricklaying qualifications. I’ve done the first year and I’m just about to complete my Level 2 NVQ. Passing my driving test is the next step towards changing my life, as when I’m a qualified bricklayer I can start looking for jobs. I feel positive about the future - my life is back on track.”
Emmaus Village Carlton supports 42 formerly homeless people. Funds are raised through their Home Store charity shop and bistro, with local people donating unwanted items for resale.
Angela Foll, community director of Emmaus Village Carlton said: “We’re all extremely proud of Dean. He’s come a long way in the two years he’s been with us. With his driving licence, he can now pursue his plan to seek work as a bricklayer once he’s completed his training.
“As homelessness rates sadly continue to rise, it is success stories like this that show how important it is to offer support. Our charity is working hard to ensure that as many people as possible are able to turn their lives around.”
If you have been inspired by Dean’s story and want to help, contact Emmaus Village Carlton to find out how you can get involved. It can be as simple as donating your unwanted furniture, old clothing or bric-a-brac, picking up a bargain at their on-site Home Store charity shop, or volunteering your time to help out.
To find out more about Emmaus Village Carlton visit www.emmaus.org.uk/village_carlton