Tom was 51 when he lost his job, his marriage broke down, and he became homeless. He went on to spend 18 months sleeping on the streets of London and Rochester, using a piece of cardboard to keep warm during the cold winter months.
Now, Tom is being supported by Emmaus Cambridge and is celebrating passing his driving test thanks to funding from the Landbeach charity.
Tom’s job loss and the breakdown of his marriage in 2012 meant that he struggled to keep up with mortgage payments on his own and eventually he became homeless: “I had some savings, so for the first few months I stayed in B&B’s while I looked for work and a place to live.”
Only two months after losing his home, Tom’s money ran out: “I began sofa-surfing at friends’ houses. That quickly became difficult and before I knew it I was on the streets of Rochester, sleeping rough. I eventually went to London where I thought there might be more help for people in my situation.”
Tom struggled to find help in London and quickly learned how to survive on the streets from other rough sleepers: “I was referred to a hostel, but I could only stay with them four nights a month. The rest of the month I slept outside and I would get a bit of cardboard, put that down, and put my sleeping bag on top. It was the only way to keep warm.”
Tom’s life began to change after 18 months on the streets when a London based homelessness charity referred him to Emmaus Colchester. Tom went on to spend two years living and working at Emmaus Colchester before transferring to Emmaus Cambridge in 2016.
With the help of Emmaus Cambridge, Tom’s driving lessons and driving test were fully funded and he is now a qualified driver with hopes of driving the Emmaus vans: “Although I became homeless in a matter of only six weeks, my journey out of homelessness has taken over two years. I feel as though everything has just fallen in to place at Emmaus Cambridge. I work hard and have very diverse duties; from working in the coffee shop and on the shop counter, to working in the warehouse unloading and loading up the vans for deliveries. To pass my driving test is a huge moment for me personally. It’s a massive boost to my confidence and has shown me what I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I can’t thank Emmaus Cambridge enough not only for the support they have given me throughout my lessons and test, but during a time where I was at my lowest point.”
Deborah Chessum, Senior Support Worker, said:
Tom is a pleasure to work with and is always willing to help others within the community. It was a great pleasure to be able to help facilitate Tom with driving lessons from our training fund and he sailed through his theory and driving test with ease.
Passing his driving test has enabled Tom to continue to help others within the community and Tom takes companions to appointments and evening activities such as the gym and swimming which is often in his own spare time. Tom is a great example of a companion that fully embraces community life within Emmaus and hopefully will show other companions what is achievable for the future.
Emmaus Cambridge provides up to 34 people a home for as long as needed and meaningful work in its social enterprise in Landbeach. The combination of a supportive environment and the opportunity to work allows formerly homeless companions to regain lost self-esteem, restore confidence and rebuild their lives for a better future. The local charity is currently undergoing an expansion, building 10 new rooms so it can support 44 people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion.
To find out more about Emmaus Cambridge, visit www.emmaus.org.uk/Cambridge or find us at Green End, Landbeach, CB25 9FD.