I’m 56 now and I’ve been rough sleeping on and off, since I was 18.
I quite enjoyed school, but I left at 16. About two years later I thought I’d be happier if I left home, but I didn’t have anywhere to go – that was my first experience of rough sleeping.
When I was 28, things got a bit more stable: I met someone, we got married and settled down. For 10 years, I worked in warehousing and we had a house together. Then sadly my marriage broke down, I left the family home and ended up back on the streets, unable to work.
As a single man, I found there wasn’t much support available; I did try living in hostels and shared houses and it wasn’t a good experience. I had a roof over my head, but not much support apart from that, with no way forward or a route out of there. When I went out each morning I didn’t know if my room would be broken into when I came back. If I left food in the kitchen, it wouldn’t be there later that day: nothing felt safe. In the end, I thought I’d be better off rough sleeping again; I felt safer on the streets of Birmingham.
I’m very comfortable with my own company, which made things a bit easier, but it’s no life really. I did my best to look after myself: I had a sleeping bag, and I’d make sure I found somewhere tucked away to sleep. If it was cold and raining, I’d find shelter in a park or somewhere else hidden away. If it was hot, I’d just sleep in a field. I’d always avoid the city centre because it’s really hard to sleep with 24-hour noise. I know Birmingham well, so I knew which areas to avoid because they’re not so safe. I would visit day centres where I could get washed. clean my clothes and have something to eat.
In 2017, after years of being homeless, I was rough sleeping in Birmingham when I heard about Emmaus. I got in touch and applied for a room at Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire, and I moved in soon after. I’ve been living in Emmaus communities ever since. After some time at Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire, I also spent time living at Emmaus Gloucestershire and Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. After a year in Leicestershire, I have recently moved back to Coventry.
Here, I’ve got a room and my stuff is safe when I leave each morning. One of the good things is that at Emmaus I’m not just sitting around watching TV all day; when I get up, I’ve got something to do. In hostels there’s nothing to do at all, and it all feels pointless. Here, I help run the charity’s shop and warehouse. I prefer working in the warehouse because I like my own company and I can also use my warehousing experience.
I’d definitely recommend Emmaus to someone who is homeless. There’s help if you want it; there are possibilities out there and they’ll support you to get to where you want to go next. Quite a lot of the people I’ve met at Emmaus over the years have now moved on; they had a plan and Emmaus supported them to get back on their feet.
If I left Emmaus and applied for a job and they asked me what I’ve been doing, I could tell them I’ve been working. I’ve not just sat there and done nothing: I’ve got skills.