When I first came to Emmaus, I was tasked with painting the walls of the clothing department. The second week I was on deliveries and collections on the vans, then I was in the workshop learning how to upcycle and make furniture.
I really enjoy working with wood. The first project I completed (and which has since sold) was a sideboard chest of drawers which we had for over two months. It was in fairly poor condition and had dark varnish with lots of deep holes and gashes in the top panel, which I sanded down. The internal drawer structure needed replacing and I enjoyed cutting and shaping the wood from scratch. At first I thought to keep it all natural, but then decided to paint the lower section and wax the top to keep it original… then the whole unit came together in all its glory!
I think the reuse aspect to Emmaus Bolton is great. One man’s rubbish really is another man’s treasure. Instead of all of these items going to waste or to recycling points, they’re coming here to be sold on or upcycled. In other words, a new lease of life is given to all these items.
On a personal level, I see Emmaus as a place where people, just like me, can be given a new lease of life. Sometimes we all hit crossroads in our lives after all the various personal struggles that we go through, and sometimes you just need a place of respite. I was in desperate need of such a place and, at the 11th hour, I found out about Emmaus and here I am today. I’m very grateful for that.
I was married for about 13 years and I have two beautiful kids as well. Sadly, the marriage didn’t work out so eight years ago we separated. I then moved on and found my own place. I set about building my life back up again for me and my girls. I worked in the IT sector for nearly two decades via a number of organisations, providing various levels of technical support (in-house as well as external B2C and B2B). But in March 2020 the pandemic hit and I got made redundant.
I decided I would not try to find employment again. Instead, I wanted to move forward with a passion project on my heart for a number of years, to do something for society. However, at that point I ended up being the full-time carer of my mum who needed my support and ended up living with me during the pandemic.
13 months later, in September 2021, after my mum moved on, I founded Glorious Estates, the beginnings of a social enterprise, comprising a profit-generating property investment arm which would fund the social housing arm for marginalised people groups.
However, at the same time, I was going through a legal custody battle for access to my youngest daughter. This soon consumed all my time and attention and began to have a corroding effect. This soon impacted my ability to work and generate an income.
Eventually, the time, mental and emotional energy required by the legal process meant that financially I ended up in a really bad place. But thankfully I won the case.
By not being able to pay priority bills, including my rent, my landlord went through the formal eviction process. This was quite nerve-wracking, especially the constant threat and anticipation of an eviction letter and bailiffs turning up at any moment.
It was difficult sharing my circumstances with friends, especially as they don’t really know how to deal with this kind of news. Most of them (like me then) are married and with children. If they don’t have a spare room, or know how to help you they feel unable to help and uncomfortable as a result. For this reason I didn’t really want to share my story, but as a result you feel quite lonely and end up suffering in silence.
Fortunately, there is one couple I’ve known for 10 years through my local church, who have been rooting for us ever since the marriage was on the rocks. I was able to speak openly and honestly with them and a few key others. That’s all I needed, a married couple much older and wiser, with two generations of family after them. I kept regular contact with them and they were always there for me to give me sound advice and counsel.
I was already registered with Bolton council for emergency accommodation and seeing I now had three days a week with my daughter I thought I would be given priority. But as the weeks and months progressed it became clear that the Council had nothing suitable since I wasn’t priority enough. They explained that there were 18,000 people on the social housing register (in Bolton alone!) yet they only had 5 to 10 properties available per week. So clearly there is a huge demand and a real need for more social housing.
I first heard about Emmaus through my friend Billa Ahmed (who runs a Bolton charity called Homeless Aid UK). I ended up having to walk to Emmaus Bolton because on that same day the bailiffs seized my car, just as I was about to do the school run. I promised to collect my daughter from school that day so I thought instead I’d just hop on my mountain bike to meet her at school and then walk her to her mums. But both tyres on the bike were flat! I simply had to laugh at my calamity. What else could go wrong?!
So it took 40 minutes (instead of 10) to get to my daughter. Thereafter I ended up walking to Emmaus.
On arrival, the Emmaus staff were very welcoming, open and calm. I felt very comfortable explaining my situation and the overall onboarding process was very smooth. They said they have a policy of consulting existing companions before accepting new members, just like a new family member joining the household.
Emmaus Bolton has helped me with a number of personal requests and have facilitated the transitioning process (logistically and administratively) from where I was to where I am now.
Here at Emmaus Bolton there are no ongoing running costs to worry about. It helps that my previous bills can now be closed off and I can begin settling debts with my creditors. This is a massive help and I’m managing to live a fairly frugal lifestyle on a strict budget.
I like the fact that I have a regular routine at Emmaus Bolton. I contribute 40 hours per week here and in exchange I get bed, board and expenses covered, plus companions get a charitable allowance, which I regard as disposable income. I have no reason to complain whatsoever. I have got a nice room, nice food (we even have a chef here!) I’m extremely grateful for this place.
As a social enterprise Emmaus aims to eradicate homelessness. This is also on my heart and very much how I wish to contribute to society. So my eyes are wide open whilst serving, observing and learning how things are done here.
Many people come to Emmaus Bolton to donate, but there’s also a social benefit where we’re helping the council solve the problem of homelessness by accommodating companions, who in turn are investing their time and energy back into Emmaus by helping provide many services to the wider community such as: upcycling & repurposing furniture, delivering and collecting goods to and from 1000s of households across the region, serving tills, running a cafe, a food bank, clothing, a garden centre, a haberdashery and much more … It’s simply incredible!
There is always hope and there is always another chance. I see every day as an opportunity to make a fresh start. As long as you have got breath in you and an inkling of life there is always the chance to turn your life and your immediate world around.
Emmaus is a stepping stone to the life that I want to begin to have. I needed a place of rest and respite. I couldn’t think of anything beyond that. Emmaus Bolton is providing this for me.
If anyone is out there in a similar situation, just needing a break from whatever challenge or trauma you are facing, especially if it affects your accommodation, Emmaus is definitely the place to come to… I highly recommend it!
If you or someone you know is in need of a home and is at risk of or experiencing homelessness, and think Emmaus Bolton is for you, find out how to join our community Emmaus Bolton here.