Craig, 51, is turning his life around following leaving the army, suffering a relationship breakdown which found himself facing insurmountable levels of debt and living on the streets for months.
Today, on World Homeless Day, Craig is taking the opportunity to thank Emmaus Glasgow for helping get his life back on track.
“I spent two years as a Sergeant in my regiment before I left because of health issues. I then met my wife and was married to her for 10 years before she left me. She took off one night and didn’t let me know where she was going or provide me with a forwarding address. Our marriage had always been up and down since the start, but I was left on my own, paying bills for a flat I couldn’t afford, and had debt collectors turn up daily asking for money that was in her name. I kept telling them that she wasn’t living with me anymore, but they wouldn’t listen, and kept on turning up because she was still registered as living at our address and I was still her husband. They wanted me to pay the debt, but I couldn’t.”
“My mental health has always been fragile, and this was the tipping point for me. I couldn’t function, I was living hand to mouth and could barely take care of myself. The debt got worse and I became worse, my mental health started to deteriorate, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I woke up one day and walked out of the house before they kicked me out. I packed a rucksack and walked off. That’s how bad it was. There was no help. No one to turn to.”
With nowhere to turn to and no one to offer him any advice or help, Craig had no other option but to sleep rough.
“Living on the streets was an experience I don’t want to repeat. I would sit on street corners begging throughout the day and then spend the nights in my sleeping bag, or if I was lucky enough to find one, a tent.”
“I can’t tell you how hard it was. You are living on hand outs. For the first three weeks I couldn’t bring myself to take anything from anybody because I’m proud, but the longer it went on the more I realised that I wasn’t part of society anymore. People walk past you; if you’re lucky they ignore you, if you’re not they spit on you or look down on you like you’re nothing. And you begin to believe it, you believe you are nothing. You’re just a body. Other homeless people can be just as scary, it’s not as friendly or welcoming as you would imagine. They have patches and areas and if you get caught sitting or begging on someone else’s patch they can become nasty and violent. For most of the time living on the streets I felt scared, but because of my army training I slept in trees when I could find them, rather than down on the actual street. I felt safer up there.”
Everything came to head when Craig’s sister walked past him sleeping on a street corner one day and he went to live with her. From there she found the number for Emmaus Glasgow and Craig has never looked back.
“Being at Emmaus has taught me how to be independent, at my own pace and in my own way. The staff and team have given me the confidence to be an RC (a Responsible Companion) which means that when staff leave the community for the night, I am responsible for the rest of the companions, as well as the building itself. I am responsible for locking the main doors and the kitchen, and doing routine checks throughout. Before coming to Emmaus, I would never have thought I could do anything like that.”
“If it wasn’t for Emmaus, I would be under a bridge somewhere or face down in the canal… Emmaus gave me a purpose, it gave me something to live for.”