I’m from Glasgow originally but left there aged 18 and worked in the music business for 36 years. I travelled the world supporting many famous bands as a technical production manager but unfortunately, I ended up homeless in London.
I ran my own very successful production company and also ran a pyrotechnics company for six or seven years. We did multiple world tours supporting bands, working on the MTV music awards, Brit Awards, at the Albert Hall and other big events.
I ended up drinking far too much, still functioning at work, but a few things happened which took their toll. One of the bands I was working for went bankrupt and took me with them. At the same time, I was going through a breakup with a long-term partner.
I moved to London but couldn’t work because I was alcohol dependent, so ended up on the streets. For six or seven months I was sleeping rough and eventually I got myself into rehab. Building yourself back up in London isn’t easy, so I moved out to Essex, to where my daughter was.
I was in Essex for about a year before I ran into problems with housing benefits because I’d previously been self-employed. They stopped paying my rent, so I became homeless again, ending up in a night shelter in Colchester. It was through the night shelter that I found out about Emmaus.
I initially moved into Emmaus Colchester for three years. There was no problem joining Emmaus and living within a community of people. I used to work with a crew of people in the music business and the lifestyle is similar because you’re living with the same people, working with the same people and socialising with the same people.
I hadn’t really worked for about two or three years, so I was out of the routine of working. Emmaus gave me some structure and also built my confidence again. Going through rehab strips you bare and so it takes a while to build up your self-confidence again. Being at Emmaus helped a lot.
I was able to keep in touch with my daughter, family and friends. When I was down in Colchester my daughter actually did a charity parachute jump for Emmaus. The fact that she knew where I was, and in a safe place was a big thing for her. Doing the fundraiser was her way of saying thank you.
I moved to Emmaus Burnley in March 2019. Now I work at the Emmaus Department Store and also do maintenance at Emmaus House. I work in the warehouse, keeping the shop stocked, loading and unloading the vans and sometimes going out on the vans. I build beds, wardrobes and if something needs fixing, I fix it up.
Being part of an Emmaus community is great. There’s always someone there – you’re never on your own. If you do have a problem, there’s always a member of staff who you can speak to quite freely. Most of them have been through every scenario you can imagine so you’re not going to shock them.
There is a constant turnover of people coming in, so you never get bored of speaking to the same person over and over again. Also, you can pass on your own experience to other people to hopefully help them. Likewise, they can bring their experience to the table and help you.
At Emmaus I’ve just finished my health and safety NVQ training and I’ve done one in customer service too. If you want to do training, take advantage of stuff and do further education, then that support is there.
I’m ready to go back out there and get a job again. I toured for thirty odd years and the skills and experience I have is not something you can pigeon-hole. It’s taken me a long time to decide what I want to do because I don’t want to go back touring again. I need something that I’m not going to get bored at and my goal for the next six months is to focus in on a job I want to do.
Emmaus can only survive with your input, donations, custom and support. When you come into the shops, speak to the people and ask them, get more information. Interact with the people behind the counter because nine times out of ten, they’ve been in a vulnerable situation, whether that be sleeping rough, sofa surfing or homeless in some other way. The more people who know about Emmaus, the more understanding and knowledge people will have about homelessness.
For anyone who may be having problems in life, my advice is don’t bottle it up and don’t hit the bottle to try and get rid of it! There is help out there. If you find yourself struggling, the first thing you should do is seek help.