I was born in Dagenham in Essex and first moved up to Nelson when I was 12. Then I lived in Accrington, Blackburn and Burnley; lots of different places. My dad passed away when I was 10, so when I moved up it was just my mum, my little brother and me. My four other brothers and sisters stayed down there.
I studied childcare and worked in a few factories when I left college. Then I went to work at a care home just before I turned 21 and I was there for six months. I did personal care, got people up and cleaned them as well. It was okay. It was a bit stressful. There were good times and bad times, with people passing away. Sometimes I would go away and cry in the bathroom. Particularly after deaths, sometimes you just needed to go away and cry.
I had put in my notice at the care home, when I got Covid. I think I got it on Christmas Eve. Three days later I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t walk. I was in hospital overnight with it. I have never been so sick in my life. I was isolating with Covid for two weeks, then I took a proper Covid test, and work wanted me to come in, but the test was still showing positive. The rule was you could return to work after two weeks of isolating. I said I couldn’t, so they said to finish your notice early and leave.
I paid for my flat out of my wages. It was the money from working at the care home that kept it going. It felt good having a flat, having that independence. From that point, I was there at the flat until I couldn’t be there.
I got paid from the care home and then the holiday pay I had left over. I had to pay for bills and food with that money. The next month the care home paid the same again. I had to wait six weeks for Universal Credit, but I wouldn’t have been able to pay for my flat with it. The gas and electric alone was £150 per month. That had more than doubled from two months earlier. Being under 25, that’s the most of what I would have got from Universal Credit, then there’s WiFi and there’s food. I don’t know how you’re supposed to keep yourself going these days with Universal Credit. Housing benefit wouldn’t have paid for all my rent either so I would have had to pay more towards that to top up my rent.
With the cost of living crisis, there would have been no way I could have reasonably stayed, even without the debts I had. I was falling behind on my gas electric, council tax and rent. I was in debt from everything related to having a flat. There was not a chance. I did some things to get money. I just needed to money to try to stay in there. I sold things around the house, but it was just covering my food. I sold whatever I had. A TV in my bedroom, I had to sell that. Things that were really nice.
I had to leave. I left my oven there, sofa, table, I had loads of stuff in there. I couldn’t take it. I literally had to pack some bags and go. I just hired a small van from someone I knew and went to my friend’s house and left it all behind and that’s it. I didn’t want to leave. I loved that flat and it broke my heart to leave like that.
I was sofa surfing for months before I came to Emmaus and it wasn’t easy. It’s not the same as having your own place. There were three different friends that I stayed with, but I couldn’t stay with everyone forever. They couldn’t keep paying for me. I felt like I was using up their money. And obviously I still had the bills from my flat that I was behind on.
Then I found a homeless shelter, but they could only help for two weeks, because that’s all they are funded for. It only was when I was interviewing for Emmaus that they told me people could stay here as long as they need to. I joined Emmaus on 31 August 2022. I had been sleeping on sofas and on mattresses on the floor so that first night, when I had a bed, it felt great. I just slept the whole night. I had mixed emotions. It was kind of relief in a way to be at Emmaus in a way, but I still had all those debts.
Staff at Emmaus have helped me work out which bills I had and who they were for, and are supporting me so I can pay them off. It definitely takes all the stress off knowing that the debt will eventually be cleared, because they were threatening me with jail and prison at one point. It’s a relief to be getting it all sorted.
I can shut and lock the door to my own room. I love my own bathroom. I have my own dressing table, bed, chair and TV. I can come out of the shower with a towel and not have to get dressed immediately.
I work in the largest charity shop in the country, an Emmaus Department Store in Rochdale and I mainly work in customer service at the till. I didn’t know how to measure properly when I moved into Emmaus, but now I do. I’m going to ask to have a reminder of my first aid training here and I want to do the customer service course here. In the future, I would like to work in a furniture shop. Here there are different people and different things happening every day. There’s something to do all the time, pricing, measuring, hoovering.
Working here makes me feel good because of what I’m doing this for. I like talking to customers about what they’re buying. With furniture, there’s a lot to talk about and share with each other. When I walk round and do things, it makes me feel good.
What makes Emmaus special is the staff here. The Head of Support was a companion here so she knows what it’s like, having her to talk to is really good, and the Retail Manager is a support as well. Emmaus has helped me get my medication for depression. It’s important for me to have this when I’ve not got family around. I had been so sensitive, and I would cry and cry about little things.
I would like to thank Emmaus 100%, the staff and some of the companions. My advice would be don’t hide from things, try to sort it out. It’s thanks to Emmaus that I am now able to face my problems.
If you or someone you know is at risk or currently homeless and would like support from Emmaus, please visit Get Support.