I lost my job and then because of that, I lost my flat and was homeless. I slept on the streets for a while but I saw how unsafe it was, so decided to stay hidden and live along the canal banks, sleeping under bridges.

It was cold at night, and I constantly worried about where my next meal would come from. Nowadays, when I hear someone say “I’m starving”, I think, “You don’t know what that really means. You have no idea what it’s like to go four or five days without eating.”

People’s reactions affected me as time went on. When I first became homeless, I was clean, but that deteriorated over time. I’d notice the look of horror on some people’s faces when they saw me, and I’d think, “I’m not a bad person.”

One day, there was a fellow on his barge enjoying his holiday. Over four or five days, we kept passing each other and chatting. At the end of his holiday, he said, “Right, let’s sort you something out.” He tried contacting the council, but they couldn’t help, so he put me in touch with a Christian charity. They interviewed me over the phone, and when they accepted me, he took me there on his barge! We made a mad dash, going through lock after lock, just to get me there on time. That charity mainly helps people with addiction issues, but I didn’t have any; I was among the few who needed help because of homelessness. I ended up living there for eighteen months.

When I was ready to move on, I found out about Emmaus and applied; I’ve been at Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire for ten weeks now. It took me some time to get used to the way of life here. There’s more freedom, and it’s good to have my own room and space when I need it. I like that I can choose if I want to spend time with people in the evenings or just enjoy my own company.

I’m very settled here now, and I like the daily routine. I enjoy helping to run the charity shop in Coventry: there’s a lot to it. I deal with customers, replace and price items, and keep the stock clean. I like the challenge of finding the best price for an item: you want to get the most money, but it also needs to sell quickly, so it’s always a balance. Being busy suits me; the day goes faster, and my mind stays focused. Then, in the evening, I can relax and think, “I deserve this; this is my time now.”

I’m quite new to Emmaus so I don’t yet have a plan for what’s next. These last few years have made me stop and think about what I actually need in life: a room, food, some spending money, and a work routine. For many people, that might not be enough, but for now, it is for me. I feel welcome and safe.