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.

Emmaus is brilliant – it’s like a stepping stone to get back into reality.

I’ve got my own room and a reason to get out of bed each morning. I’ve been part of the Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire community for a year now, mainly working in the charity’s shop. When people bring in donations, I can spot what’s going to sell within a day – I’ve got an eye for it. I’ve also been trained as a PAT tester – making sure electrical items are safe before going on sale.

Emmaus has given me back the confidence that seemed to slip away when I was homeless. My sense of pride has returned as well; I always used to be a smartly dressed person and now I feel like myself again. Emmaus has given me my life back and I’m incredibly thankful.