I was born and raised in Brighton and Hove, East Sussex. I didn’t grow up with my parents – I never knew my real dad and I lived with my birth mother until I was four. I don’t know the full story, but the courts were involved, and my auntie stepped in to look after me. I am so thankful that she did, but I always felt that something was missing; that connection that a child only has with their birth mother.
I remember as a child wondering why my mum wasn’t there and what I had done to deserve that. As I grew up, the feeling that part of me was missing never left, and as a result I found myself bullied throughout primary and secondary school. This led to me isolating myself and turning to food as a comfort, but as I got bigger this only fuelled the bullies further and I became even more unhappy.
An argument with my auntie’s partner led to me becoming homeless at 16. It’s in my past and something I don’t like to think over or dwell on, but it’s what led to me finding myself on the streets.
Scary is the only way to describe being homeless – it changes you in so many ways and makes you look at things differently. The normal things you think about when you have a roof over your head go out the window and it’s all about protecting yourself and keeping warm, fed and safe. I was constantly on edge, wondering when something was going to happen. I slept during the day and walked around at night near the centre of town so that I was always close to people.
I found some refuge in day centres – they were a place to stay warm, have something to eat and get support with my mental health, but they couldn’t help me to get a roof over my head. I was eventually housed in a supported housing unit in the centre of Brighton called The Foyer. I stayed there for two years, which was the maximum length allowed, and it was my support worker who helped me contact Emmaus Brighton when it was time to move on. I was lucky enough to get a place quite quickly and stayed for five years.
I have been with Emmaus roughly 10 years, first at Brighton and from there I moved to Emmaus Medway. Now I’m settled at Emmaus Glasgow; I work in the Hamiltonhill store on the main site and every day is different, though I am always serving customers and making sure they get the best service. Emmaus has also given me the opportunity to further my skills and I have completed training courses in food health & safety, business, retail, customer service and even a barista course.
Quite honestly, I really don’t know where I would be without Emmaus, it has saved me in so many ways, helped me learn and made me… well, me. It has allowed me to grow and become a better person. To anyone new coming into an Emmaus community I would say don’t be shy or nervous, we have all been in situations that have tested us and we don’t judge anyone, we all try and help and support each other anyway we can. Do the best you can and that is all anyone can ask of you. If you need help we are here to support you.
I would just like to just say a huge thank you to all at Emmaus – the staff that work here in Glasgow and the other communities that I have lived in – they are all amazing, the support they’ve given me and others is above and beyond. Each one of them has a real passion for their job.