June 2003-present: Community manager, Emmaus Bristol.
2002-3: Project worker, Redwood House homeless hostel.
178-2002: Various jobs, including paramedic, leading ambulanceman and operational station supervisor, Avon Ambulance Service.
When several knee injuries forced Dave Perry to leave the ambulance service after 24 years as a paramedic, he didn’t think he would ever find a job that gave him as much enjoyment. “Yet I am enjoying this one at least as much and if not more,” says Perry, now community manager at an Emmaus community for the homeless in Bristol.
One of 11 Emmaus communities in the UK and 400 worldwide, it provides home and work for homeless people. Perry’s Bristol community was set up in 2003 and can accommodate up to 18 people. The centre provides a support network and equips residents with skills to move their lives forward. Each community collects disused or broken goods such as furniture and electrical wares and the residents refurbish them to sell on to the public. The plan is for the community to be self-funded within five years.
Perry was interested in working for Emmaus Bristol even before his job was created. He had heard about the way the charity operated from his wife and so liked what he heard that he wrote to the director saying that he would like to become a part of the organisation. In the meantime, he got a job as a project worker at Redwood House, one of the three main homeless hostels in Bristol, to build on his previous experiences of working with homeless people.
Prior to Redwood House, Perry’s experience of working with homeless people was as a paramedic. “The ambulance service is a caring job about helping people. You experience life in all its ways as a paramedic and I worked with a lot of homeless people who were ill or had been injured. After my experiences, I wanted to find another caring job. Both jobs are about good people skills, particularly working with people in crisis who are suffering.”
Crisis management, counselling, problem-solving, the ability to make decisions on the spot – Perry says all the skills he needed as a paramedic are also needed as a community manager. Another quality he says is vital is a cool head. “You have to be able to deal with what is thrown at you.”
When he started at Emmaus, he did some training at other Emmaus communities, job-shadowing the community leader in Coventry and one in Cambridge. He had done some training around dealing with difficult people and crisis management at Redwood, so he felt well equipped to take on the role of community leader in Bristol.
His last job in the ambulance service involved managing 36 staff and 14 vehicles, while providing 24-hour supervisory cover, so knew he could cope with stressful working conditions while managing a team of people.
He has also done a lot of youth work with his local church throughout his life, so is used to encouraging community activity. “I assess people who ask to come in to Emmaus, interview them and select people to give the atmosphere of a home and family. It is about developing people’s belonging in the community.”