Former homeless man to run upcycling workshop to help Bedford’s rough sleepers

Tom Blight and Christian
Tom Blight and Christian

A man who was homeless for six months is running a workshop to help rough sleepers in Bedford.

Christian was sleeping rough when charity Emmaus Village Carlton gave him a place to live and the support he needed to change his life for the better.

Ten months on, Christian is now using his creative talents to “upcycle” unwanted furniture which is repaired and repainted and sold to raise vital funds for Emmaus.

On Monday, September 25, Christian will be joining staff from the charity to lead a special workshop for service users at The SMART Prebend Centre in Bedford as part of national Recycle Week (25th September – 1st October 2017). It will offer rough sleepers the chance to learn upcycling skills.

Emmaus Village Carlton supports 42 formerly homeless people by giving them a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise and an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild their lives. 
Funds are raised through their Home Store charity shop and bistro in Carlton, with local people donating unwanted items for resale.

During his time with Emmaus, Christian has developed his talents and is not only using chalk paints to experiment with adding colour to wooden items, but also builds his own creations by putting together parts from furniture that is not able to be resold.

Christian said: “It means a lot to me that I’m able to use my artistic talents to help Emmaus Village Carlton, as they’ve done so much to support me. I love finding pieces of donated furniture and transforming them to be sold in our shop. I have a workshop area and as people donate items, I keep an eye out for things that might otherwise not sell, or sell for very little, and then I work out how to transform them into something so much better.

“For the Upcycling Workshop, we’ll be showing people how to transform a wooden dining chair using chalk paints. The finished pieces will then be donated to the centre so they can use or sell them to raise funds.”

The SMART Prebend Centre, in Prebend Street, Bedford, provides facilities and services for the homeless including one-to-one support, advocacy, food, showers, clothes, access to phones and postal services.

Emmaus Village Carlton’s Re-use and Recycling Manager Tom Blight will be assisting with the workshop. He said: “Emmaus is all about helping those who are most vulnerable in society. We like to be able to partner with other local organisations who are also working towards this goal. We’re really looking forward to sharing our upcycling skills in this special workshop, giving people a chance to learn a new skill and enjoy a new experience.”

Lisa Harrison from The SMART Prebend Centre said: “This is an amazing opportunity for our service users to learn new skills. It’s important that we provide diverse and interesting activities at the centre and we are delighted that Emmaus are helping us to achieve this. We are all very excited to get involved!”

Next month, Emmaus Village Carlton will also be offering an Upcycling Workshop for members of the public, to be held at their Home Store on Monday, October 16. Participants will learn to upcycle an item of furniture and will be able to take home their completed creation. Tickets are £5 and all funds raised will support Emmaus Village Carlton’s work. To find out more about booking places on this public workshop please visit

To find out more about The Prebend Homeless Day Centre visit or attend the Open Day on October 18.