A 24-year-old man living in Gloucestershire is keen to share his experience of homelessness and mental health to inspire others who may be currently faced with similar challenges.

At the age of 13, Martin started suffering with his mental health before becoming homeless at the age of 22. On Saturday 10 October, World Homeless Day and World Mental Health Day coincide, and Martin, now supported by homelessness charity Emmaus Gloucestershire, is keen to share his story to help inspire others.

Martin, began drinking at an early age due to problems in his childhood: “Loads of things were happening as I was growing up that I wanted to forget, and alcohol seemed like the best way to do that. I had a lot of family problems, began struggling with depression and anxiety, and experienced difficulties with people accepting my sexuality.”

At 22, Martin got kicked out: “I spent three months on the street where I grew up. I occasionally stayed in hostels, but they are not a very nice place to be sometimes. My drinking escalated while homeless and a typical day became waking up and getting drunk. Normally, I’d be so drunk that it wouldn’t matter where I was sleeping.”

In a bid to turn his life around, Martin decided to go to rehab: “I was put on medication, attended support groups and began regular AA meetings which I still go to. My family were very supportive whenever I spoke to them and we began to reconnect.”

After three months in rehab Martin moved to Emmaus Gloucestershire; a charity that provides a home, meaningful work, daily support and funded training to people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion.

At Emmaus, people work in the charity’s five second-hand shops to rebuild their confidence and gain new skills: “When I first joined Emmaus, I started working on the shop floor serving and assisting customers, cashing up, and organising stock. Then I moved to our eBay office and Emmaus sent me on a training course, so I knew how to do it well. Most recently, I’ve been learning how to cook for the community. I’ve learnt so many new skills since being here which has really helped to raise my confidence.”

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has had a negative impact on Martin’s mental health but being in an Emmaus community has helped him: “I found lockdown very hard, but I was so glad to not be on the streets. At one point, I thought my recovery was going to be affected too because I couldn’t go to AA meetings. Thankfully they moved these online and the help I received from the support team at Emmaus was invaluable.”

Martin’s plan for now is to focus on his driving lessons: “Emmaus has funded my driving lessons and test. It was all postponed due to the pandemic, but I’ve now had a few lessons and they are going well. By this time next year, I hope to have my license.”

With the support he needs, Martin wants to let other people know they can get help too: “For anyone reading this who may be in a similar position to what I once was, whether that’s being homeless or struggling with addiction or mental health issues, please know help is out there. Go to the council or find out how your local services can help you. It might take a few tries to get somewhere but do keep trying.”

The purpose of World Homeless day is to draw attention to homeless people’s needs locally and provide opportunities for the wider community to get involved in responding to homelessness. To find out more, visit www.worldhomelessday.org

The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘mental health for all’ with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world. To find out more, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/world-mental-health-day

If you have been inspired by Martin’s story and want to help Emmaus Gloucestershire, visit www.emmaus.org.uk/gloucestershire to find out how you can get involved.