A SHOP run entirely by homeless volunteers is being transformed into an art gallery to celebrate the work of one of its many success stories.

Between December 3 and 14, Emmaus, in High Street, Colchester, will exhibit the work of Neil Davey.

The 61-year-old, a 'companion' at Emmaus Colchester, found himself homeless after developing a condition which causes both of his hands to close in on themselves, making it impossible for him to continue working as a carpenter.

After sleeping rough on the beach on Mersea Island, Neil was eventually referred to Emmaus by Colchester Council officers.

Talented painter Neil said: "I’ve painted since I was a child but went to art school in 1977.

"I love walking and being in nature which is my main inspiration. Some paintings can take years to complete, however, the ones I am most proud of took only a few days or hours - it just all comes together and comes to life.

"Painting helps me to feel complete. It is something I do first thing in the morning and could not imagine my life without it.

"I hope that people who will attend my exhibition will take away the story of the walk that we all take; with ups and downs; in rain and sunshine; in a stormy weather or in a day filled with light."

He added: "Every painting is a story. My story."

The former carpenter is donating half of the money raised from selling his paintings back to Emmaus, with the other half going to his move on fund.

Each of the paintings will be available to buy in the High Street premises from next week. *w/b DEC 3*

A registered charity, Emmaus Colchester provides housing for up to 35 people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion and helps them to rebuild their lives and move on to independent living.

Gintare Petrauskaite, Emmaus community manager, added: "We are feeling extremely privileged to support Neil in this venture.

"Neil is an extremely talented artist who told his story on canvas and I hope that people will come and join him on this journey.

"As a community, we are all about empowering people to fulfil their potential and hopefully, Neil’s journey will inspire others not to give up and stay true to their dreams."

To find out more about Emmaus Colchester go to www.emmaus.org.uk/colchester or call 01206 541616.