My life was once very good. I had a great job as a chef and I lived with my mum in her rented house. Unfortunately my mum became ill and was gradually getting frailer, so I decided to leave work to become her full-time carer.

Four years later she sadly passed away. I took over tenancy of the house and got a job working as a school cleaner. Things could have started to look up, but then all of a sudden the landlord put my rent up. My salary wasn’t enough to cover it and I started to fall behind. I tried to get assistance from social services but they were no help; it was so frustrating. My family helped out in ways but they aren’t rich so they couldn’t do much. In the end, after about six months of spiralling into debt, I was told I was going to be evicted. I had to sell all of the stuff in the house and I lost my job because I was getting depressed and medication didn’t help.

When eviction day came, I had nowhere to go. For almost 18 months I slept in a tent alongside a brook near where I used to live. I found places to bathe when I could but it was the cold temperatures that really got to me. It was so bad that I did think about suicide at times. I had a lot of time on my hands and I started to think “is this it? Is this my life now?” Each day seemed like it lasted a fortnight. I didn’t see or talk to anybody because I was tucked away in the woodland. Some people might think it sounded like an adventure but when it’s below zero outside, and you’ve got a long beard full of ice, it’s not fun.

The turning point for me was on one freezing cold day; some kind local people noticed me and were concerned. They introduced me to a rehab charity and I lived there for a while before discovering Emmaus and moving in as a companion at Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire.

Emmaus is brilliant – it’s like a stepping stone to get back into reality. They gave me my own room and a reason to get out of bed each morning. I was a part of the Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire community for five years, mainly working in the charity’s shop. When people brought in donations, I could spot what was going to sell within a day – I developed an eye for it. I also trained as a PAT tester – making sure electrical items were safe before going on sale.

Emmaus gave me back the confidence that seemed to slip away when I was homeless. My sense of pride returned as well; I always used to be a smartly dressed person and at Emmaus I felt like myself again.
I recently moved on from the community, to a new place. I decided I was ready to be more independent and start job hunting. I know I’ll be able to use the skills I learned at Emmaus, in the world of work, especially my belief in the importance of teamwork.

Right now, I’m looking forward to what the future holds. Emmaus gave my life back and I’m incredibly thankful.