My name is Anthony and I’ve been a companion, living and working at Emmaus Glasgow since June 2013.
I was born in Canada in 1968. My mum was from Brooklyn in the United States and my dad was from Bristol. I moved over to Britain with my family, and when I was 23, I went to Edinburgh to share a flat with my sister.
I chose to apply for the University of Edinburgh to study social anthropology and social policy. I’m so proud of this degree, because I achieved it by working independently, with no help from anyone else.
My family life was complicated. When I was very young I was diagnosed as a slow learner and my mother panicked and became incredibly over-protective. I always say the death of my mother was my salvation, but also my undoing. When she died, I did not have any life skills or money management. My mother had done so much for me that I became forever in debt.
My sister used to bail me out, but I was a compulsive spender. I was buying things that I didn’t need. I went through £90,000 from the sale of my parents’ flat in under two years. I was absolutely hopeless with money. I spent a lot on food too. I was also a compulsive overeater, always eating junk food and take outs.
As a result of my appalling diet, I’ve had diabetes for the last 16 years, as well as angina. My diabetes was out of control; living at 12 different addresses over 10 years and sofa surfing didn’t help. I have a lot of really, really good friends who supported me for a number of years, but they weren’t family so I couldn’t ask them to dig me out.
Then my sister found Emmaus for me, and Emmaus Glasgow saved my life.
Emmaus Glasgow helped me save money. In a way, it allowed me to put money to one side. I’ve learned life skills, time management and routine. I had lived in a completely unstructured way before. I can now do my own laundry, clean my own room, do the things that other people take for granted. Emmaus Glasgow has also helped me manage diabetes.
I had cooking lessons a few years ago and I have helped out as a kitchen porter in the community a few times. Most importantly, I’ve been able to see a dietitian who taught me to understand food labelling and appreciate what reduced fat and low fat, and high sugar means.
When I first started living at Emmaus Glasgow, I reacted rather badly. I had become a real individualist because of all the help I had imposed on me. I took a dislike to anyone helping me out without asking if I wanted help. But it’s been lucky that I’ve been living in a community because I’ve now learned how to respect and take help from other people.
I work in the shop at the house and feel like the manager here. I work with the customers, put furniture out, book in jobs and price up. My strength is in admin, I get on the phone and I’m good at writing in jobs. I’ve also learned to be more at home with technology here. I’ve been able to gain life skills that I didn’t have with my mother who was very domineering and didn’t let me make mistakes. Emmaus Glasgow lets me make mistakes.
It’s an amazing place to rebuild your life, for giving people a second chance – and second chances don’t come that often. But here you have got a second and sometimes even third, and fourth chance to rebuild your life. Emmaus Glasgow has provided a stable environment for me to get my life together. This is how I met my girlfriend Jacq. We’ve been together now for five years.
A lot of people assume homeless people are addicts and basically lazy and don’t want to work. That is not true. Drug addiction and alcoholism are some of the causes of homelessness, but they are the tip of the iceberg, as there are so many reasons why people are here.
In a nutshell, Emmaus teaches people not to judge a book by its cover. I think that’s absolutely essential when it comes to the whole question of homelessness.
If you would like to join Emmaus Glasgow’s community, please visit the What We Do pages of our website or contact [email protected] or please speak to any member of staff for information on 0141 353 3903.