Albie has been with Emmaus for over ten years, living in four different communities. After battling his mental health and a long stint of sleeping rough, Albie now feels happy and at home at Emmaus Cambridge
I first became homeless after I had two nervous breakdowns when I was in a relationship and was living with my partner and my two daughters. I had a speed habit of £500 a month and then it progressed to £1000 a month. The relationship broke down and I had to leave.
I had a tough childhood. When I was 11 my mother died of breast cancer and my dad drank very heavily. I was also sexually abused when I was younger. But you know I survived all that.
I then spent 8 years on the street. I went to Guildford; I didn’t know it or anyone there. I turned up with my rucksack and found a couple of bushes and thought oh I can sleep in there. I grew up in Portland in Dorset, so I was a long way from there.
Experience of Street Homelessness
One year while I was sleeping rough, we had three feet of snow and I had no sleeping bag. I had a cardboard box underneath me and I had newspapers scrunched up and shoved in my trousers to try and keep warm. I was awake every hour.
I had a bad time on the street. I had my teeth kicked out, and my tent was set alight while I was in it. I was urinated on. People just don’t care. It made me feel so angry. I was thinking what the hell is the world coming to? Because you’re homeless, doesn’t mean that you’re less than anyone else we should all be equal. Just some things have gone wrong in my life and not theirs.
Spending time in hostels was horrible. You just got your stuff nicked, if you had a mobile phone, it would be gone. You could only stay for about a week. The thing I didn’t like about it is that you get kicked out at 7 am and you’ve got nowhere to go. I used to have a harmonica, but I couldn’t play a tune and I used to try and play Christmas songs. I think people paid me to stop but that’s how I’d get money for hostels.
Coming to Emmaus
I first heard of Emmaus when a support worker in the night shelter told me about it. I rang a couple of communities up and Leeds got back to me. I rang them back and explained that I had been having a few issues and that my mental health had gone a bit haywire. They were still happy to have me, and the support team paid for my coach up there.
I stayed at Emmaus Leeds for eight years, eight years I stayed there. Katrina was the community leader then and she ran it well, she knew how to just cut through it all and always knew what to say.
Then I got into a relationship which was quite hard. It was a relationship, but I was also her carer. It was tough and I was with her for three years, but I just thought I can’t do this anymore. It was full-on.
I found out recently I have borderline personality disorder, one minute I’m okay, and the next minute I’m just not. I also have epilepsy which brings that on. I had a lot I was dealing with myself.
So, at that point, I left the relationship and went to Emmaus Norfolk and Waveney. There were hardly any companions there at that time. I wasn’t there very long before I moved to Emmaus Village Carlton and lived there for two years. I moved about a lot, but I like that I’ve seen how lots of different Emmaus communities work.
Settling at Emmaus Cambridge
I came to visit Emmaus Cambridge for a week’s holiday. I got into working with some of the companions who are still here now. And I thought you know what I like it here and I moved straight in. Ever since then I’ve loved it. It will be a year in August that I’ve been here.
The support staff here is just amazing. Debbie in particular is always there for me, and she’s helped me through a lot.
In Village Carlton, I went to college, and I am a qualified chef now. I have worked here in the Kitchens but sometimes my mental health and my disorder gets in the way. There are a lot of people and it’s stressful. No matter what you do in a kitchen, someone’s always going to have an opinion and I find that hard. So now mostly I work in the emporium and in the main shop. I really like it; I have good banter with the customers.
Feeling at Home
I get on well with the other companions here. We have a right good laugh. We have a good crowd here. You have bad days; you know but you’ve always got somebody there to chat with and they’ll keep it real.
I think this is the Emmaus for me. I felt at home when I first came here. Diane wanted to see me after I first got there, and I thought oh what have I done that the CEO wants to see me already? She just wanted to welcome me to Emmaus Cambridge and when she did that I felt like a proper person. Not just someone that came off the streets, I was someone that belonged here.
My mental health is steady now. Which is what I want. I like being here and being somewhere quite rural. I’ve just applied for my fishing license so I’ll start going out with the guys to fish which will be good.
I think if you believe in Emmaus and if you really believe that you can achieve something in your life after you’ve had everything thrown at you, you will do it. You will survive it. Emmaus is much more than just somewhere to sleep.