Before joining Emmaus Gloucestershire, I had my own business as a self-employed white van man doing deliveries all throughout the UK and Europe. The pandemic hit me and my business hard.
I’m originally from Gloucestershire but moved away years ago and have lived all over the world. I was a sea merchant for a couple of years, lived in the USA and Canada, and spent 24 years in Amsterdam.
I returned to the UK in 2010 and started driving vans for a company. The hours were extremely long, and we weren’t getting paid for the overtime. I thought I could do better and took the plunge in 2014, bought my own vehicle and became self-employed. It was the best thing I had ever done. It was hard work, but when I looked at my bank balance it was all worth it. It took about six months for it to start going well, and it went well for all the years up until the pandemic started in 2020.
I worked pretty much all the way through the pandemic. The first lockdown was actually nice. The roads were quiet, and I could get from A to B a lot faster than normal. Then it started to take its toll on my income. I went from £2,000 – £3,000 a week down to about £1,200 a month. I was bleeding money to stay afloat and I used most of what I had made and saved to pay my bills and rent. It got to the point that I was robbing Pete to pay Paul and professionally there was no way to carry on. I couldn’t even afford to go bankrupt.
I contacted Emmaus when I was parked on the M5 at Gloucester services. I didn’t have my flat at this point and I was staying in a hotel, thinking ‘what do I do?’. Within half an hour, I got an email back from the Support Manager, Debbie, at Emmaus Gloucestershire asking me to come in and the next day I joined the community.
I’m grateful for Emmaus. I could be out on the streets and have nothing, wondering when my next meal will be. But going from successfully self-employed to nothing and finding myself at Emmaus has been difficult. That combination started to take its toll shortly after I moved in. For three weeks or so, I didn’t and couldn’t sleep. I tried everything, but nothing helped, and the stress started building.
Thankfully, Debbie and Joe, the Chief Executive, noticed and I’ve started medication from my doctor. I’m also going to start counselling. I think I just need someone to talk to and in the meantime, that’s what I love about Debbie, Joe and the other staff members Joanne and Colin – all four of them have been stars and I can’t praise them enough. I get on well with everyone living in the community too.
Workwise, I’ve been in all the shops, scanned books for eBay in the warehouse, and helped in logistics. Before working in logistics, I was asked if I knew how to book in deliveries and collections – well, yes as it happens, I do! That was all stuff I did for my own business and means I can be helpful here too. I’ve got years of experience being out on the road, so I make sure to schedule the drivers in an order that makes sense, so they aren’t zigzagging. I think the drivers appreciate it.
I don’t think I’ll be self-employed again because my credit score is shot to hell, but the good news is that I’m starting a new job, based out of Wiltshire and will be covering the local areas around Gloucester. Thanks to Emmaus for giving me the opportunity to meet all sorts of people and help me to get my feet back on the ground.