I grew up in London but I was originally born in the Ivory Coast. Before coming to Emmaus I was working full-time but sofa surfing for three years. Due to circumstances out of my control, I couldn’t get any help with housing. I moved to a safe house in Swindon and after two years, my time had come to an end.

My support worker told me about Emmaus and suggested that it was the best option for me. Her final words were; ‘Emmaus is what you make it’ and that line has stuck with me throughout. I moved in to Emmaus Leeds in April 2018, a few days after my birthday.

Oh my days! Moving from London to Swindon and then from Swindon to Leeds was a whirlwind. I arrived at Emmaus Leeds and was showed around the community and social enterprise but it was a bit overwhelming. It was a new environment and I wasn’t too sure. As time went on, I soon settled in.

“whatever work I do is an experience gained”

My day to day role at Emmaus involves all sorts. I work in the kitchen, in the shop and have an additional responsibility as Companion Assistant. In the kitchen I help to cook dinners and prepare evening meals for our community. In the shop I serve customers and book in deliveries and collections. As Companion Assistant I act as the first point of contact when staff are not in the building and are on call.

I don’t have a particular area that I prefer to work in because I feel like whatever work I do is an experience gained. I used to work before coming to Emmaus but being here and the different roles, has added to the skills that I already had. My organisational skills have definitely improved, especially with the kitchen work. I would also say my communication and teamwork skills have improved.

It can be challenging living and working together with lots of different people with different backgrounds, but you just have to get on with it and not take everything to heart. Wherever you live with people it’s not going to be perfect, but it is nice to sit down with companions and staff to chat and eat together.

“a really good year for me”

In my time at Emmaus I’ve done lots of training including first aid, safeguarding, fire marshal, food hygiene, customer service and PAT testing. I applied to the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund for money towards a laptop which I have used for an online course. My next plan is to apply again for funds towards my driving lessons.

Before coming here, I never knew how to open a plug and do other useful jobs. The whole experience at Emmaus has been of great benefit. One of the things I have enjoyed most was a cake making course run by the mother of one of the staff members. We had a workshop where we learned how to bake cakes, decorate them and do sugar figurines. It was really cool.

Christmas 2019 was the first time when I didn’t go away. It was nice to see different things that happen at Christmas such as the Burmantofts dinner and our own community Christmas dinner. It was just nice, especially if you’ve been by yourself for a long period of time. In general, 2019 was a really good year for me and I’m now looking forward to the future. My plan now is to move to Glasgow, pass my driving test, get a job and then get my own place.

“accept the help that is genuine”

People generally don’t become homeless through faults of their own and not all homeless people want to sit on the edge of the road and beg for money. To anyone in need of help I’d say don’t give up – there’s always help out there, especially if you come across the right people.

I’ve always done things by myself and in the past when things got hard, I’ve pushed people away. When I came to Emmaus, knowing that the support team is there, was a big helping hand. You just have to be open and accept the help that is genuine.

When new companions join the community and I have a chance to sit down and talk to them I always say the same thing; ‘Emmaus is what you make it’. Everybody comes with different stories but being here is a real opportunity to lay aside your past and focus on you.

My final message to Emmaus supporters is just keep supporting us, encouraging us and spreading the word. It’s a great cause that is helping many people across the country.