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The Duchess of Cornwall visits Emmaus Hastings

5th December 2013

The Duchess of Cornwall visits Emmaus Hastings

The Duchess of Cornwall visits Emmaus Hastings. Photo by Chris Jackson, Getty Images.

The Duchess of Cornwall has paid a pre-Christmas visit to a homelessness charity to see how people are rebuilding their lives after life without shelter.

Her Royal Highness met the residents of Emmaus Hastings and Rother in East Sussex and remarked about the "positive feeling" she drew from the charity's work.

Emmaus UK supports former homeless people by giving them a place to live in one of its communities, and a chance to work in one of its social enterprises.

The Duchess has been a patron of Emmaus UK since 2006, and in May this year she joined three of its residents to learn more about its origins in France.

One of those who accompanied her on the trip to Paris was Mary Rigg, who has lived at Emmaus for several years since finding herself homeless following a relationship break-down.

Her Royal Highness greeted Ms Rigg with a warm smile before being led by her on a tour of the facility, which provides shelter and work for 15 people who have been homeless.

Afterwards, Ms Rigg, 60, said: "It was a real honour to meet her again, not just for me, but for Hastings. She said it was nice to meet me, and that the weather was a bit different than in Paris.

"This place means an awful lot to me. I can work, which for me is the most important thing. I would never have got a job elsewhere at my age, so this is a win-win situation.

"Emmaus has boosted me up so much. It has provided me with a reason to get up in the morning, and made me feel like a worthwhile member of society."

The Duchess of Cornwall opens the accommodation at Emmaus Hastings

The Duchess of Cornwall opens the accommodation at Emmaus Hastings. Photo by Chris Jackson, Getty Images.

As The Duchess toured the premises, she stopped to admire sleeping six-week-old Rowena Grant as she was being cradled in the arms of her mother, Elizabeth Grant.

Ms Grant, 29, said: "It was exciting to meet her. We really like Emmaus very much and everything they do."

Her Royal Highness went on to enjoy a cup of tea while she listened to the stories of various residents and inspected the kitchen.

Residents, known as companions, live on site in purpose-built housing and work in the charity's social enterprise - a shop selling second-hand furniture and other donated items, and a recently opened cafe.

During the visit, The Duchess officially opened an accommodation block, named Charlie Jordan House, after the first chairman of Emmaus Hastings and Rother who died in 2009.

After unveiling a plaque, Her Royal Highness told the gathering of staff, residents and dignitaries: "Every time I come to Emmaus, I get the same positive feeling about life and that's the point about Emmaus."

David Cooper, chairman of Emmaus Hastings and Rother, said: "We will be eternally grateful for what Charlie did, and it seems fitting that the building should be named after him as a permanent reminder of this. Having The Duchess of Cornwall here to support this is an honour, and a great tribute to Charlie."