Mike's story

Mike with guitars

I’m originally from Widnes but I joined Emmaus Leeds in 2016 having previously been a companion at Emmaus Burnley for three months.

Before I joined Emmaus I was homeless. The firm I worked at stopped paying my wages and I lost my job. This meant I couldn’t pay my rent or bills so I became homeless. I was sleeping rough for about two months, sleeping on park benches and alleyways.

I found out about Emmaus through a homeless outreach group who used to let me in and have a cup of tea. They phoned up Emmaus Burnley, made a referral and they took me in straight away. I was thankful to be off the streets.

From July 2016 until December 2017 I lived at Emmaus Leeds. I worked every day in the social enterprise and could turn my hand to almost anything – the shop, office, sorting room, warehouse, cleaning, on the vans and in the kitchen. My favourite area of work was out on the vans, collecting and delivering furniture. It’s good on the vans as it keeps you active, getting out and about and meeting people – it’s the best job to do!

Living in a community of 26 people is like being part of a really big family. I got on with nearly everyone and I made loads of friends I have stayed in touch with. It’s not hard living with 25 other people – you just treat others how you want to be treated.

The number one thing that I benefitted from when I lived at Emmaus was stability. I knew where I was going to put my head down at night. I was able to do my own thing of a night and outside of work. Also, being at Emmaus, the support is there if you need it.

My biggest passion is music and I’ve been playing the guitar for the past 16 years. I’ve always loved it and there’s nothing like it. I was in a band for about 7 years and I loved every second of it; every gig, every practice and every jamming session, I loved it. When that fell apart I felt like I’d lost something. It changed me; I felt more insecure and lost confidence it what I was doing.

I never stopped playing the guitar – I’ve always kept playing but not to the extent I am now. Outside of work at Emmaus I was constantly playing, recording and thinking of new things to do. The staff at Emmaus were brilliant in encouraging me to do things I maybe wouldn’t have done.

In my time at Emmaus I performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Live Art Bistro and played guitar at events at Emmaus Leeds. I’ve got a few gigs coming up, not just in Leeds but around Yorkshire too. I’ve got an EP and album coming out soon – my very first solo album.

I utilised the Move on Policy when I left Emmaus which meant I could continue living there for 12 weeks while I worked outside the community in a full time job. I put all my wages into the bank during this 12 weeks and used the money to secure a tenancy when I left. I still have some of the money put aside for my future, and to treat myself to things I haven’t been able to afford for years like a new guitar or a tattoo. I’m also planning on purchasing some new studio equipment.

I am enjoying my new job, it’s hard work and long hours but I’m doing well and already in a responsible position training new staff. My future goal will always be to have a job in the music industry – either working in a music shop, for a record company, music producer, session musician, teacher or anything along those lines.

I have just started a new venture as a performing session musician and already have one client who is purchasing some of my music for her album. As much as I miss the people I lived with at Emmaus there is nothing like coming home to your own place after a hard day and being able to play your music loud and have the freedom to do whatever you want. I’m really happy in my new life.

My final message is, if ever you find yourself in a really horrible situation where you feel lost, don’t give up. Work hard and carry on because life will get better.