“Before I became homeless in 2010, I was a licensee in the pub trade. I had joined Wetherspoons as a manager for the Canary Wharf branch, but it wasn’t my best move. Alcohol was an occupational hazard, and the drink soon took over. I was drinking about 24 pints a day.
I got behind with my rent and ended up street homeless in London’s West End. I would sleep by the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane. It was a rough time. Personally, I never had any issues on the streets. I always found somewhere to go and shower, to wash my clothes and get something to eat, but I did see someone urinate on a friend of mine. It was disgusting.
You assume that homeless people are all scruffy and have dirty clothes, but I was never like that. I just used to walk around London all day with my bag. I would go to the National Portrait Gallery and sit in there for hours, then I joined a history group with The Connection at St Martin’s homeless centre and King’s College London. Through that I became a tour guide for the Strand area. I’m still doing it now and I do other areas as well, like Kennington and the Jack the Ripper tour. I’m planning on starting one in Greenwich. It’s pretty cool. I love history.
It was actually The Connection at St Martin’s who put me in touch with Emmaus. In April 2011, I joined my first community – Emmaus Lambeth. Then in October that year, I was one of three people to win an award for the best dressed shop window. I moved into my own place after that, but then me and my partner split up. That’s when I started getting into drugs.
I had become a member of retail staff at Emmaus Lambeth, but after about a year and a half there, I went back to square one. I had failed a drugs test at work and ended up getting evicted from the flat I was living in. Emmaus Lambeth had no spare rooms to take me in as a companion (a formerly homeless person supported by Emmaus), but there was a space at Emmaus South Wales, so I stayed there for 18 months. It was a lovely community, but the area was too quiet for me, so I transferred to Emmaus Greenwich in 2019.
I stayed at Emmaus Greenwich for four months, but I had to leave ‘cause I got back onto drugs again. I know what I did was stupid, but I don’t think about that anymore. I’ve been clean for a year now and I’m really proud of myself.
I moved into Emmaus Greenwich’s new satellite house about two months ago. It’s great. Instead of rolling out of bed and into work, I can walk 10 minutes to the community and step away at the end of the day. I’m a Buddhist, so I usually go home and meditate after a day’s work. I had anger issues when I was younger, so I tried boxing and stuff like that, but I’m a lot more relaxed now than I ever was. It’s good for me. My partner and I got into Buddhism together. He’s a cardiac nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
Through lockdown, it’s been quite fun doing different jobs around the community. I’ve got a good eye for antiques, so it’s my job to sort through donations and look out for things to sell on our eBay shop. I also work in the kitchen. To me, cooking is an art form. I love it.
I organise quiz nights, too. Everybody joins in, we close up the kitchen and get pizzas in for the night. One of the old companions at Emmaus Greenwich used to do it, but sadly he passed away this year. I thought it would be nice to carry it on for him, and the first quiz I did was on his birthday. We did a memorial quiz for him.
I want to stay at Emmaus Greenwich for at least another year. I’m not ready to leave yet. At the moment I’m studying Teaching English as a Foreign Language and aromatherapy. They’re being funded by Emmaus UK’s Companion Training Fund, which also paid for a new laptop to help me study. My partner wants to move to Thailand, so if I can get a job out there as an English teacher that would be really good.
What I like about Emmaus Greenwich is that there are no cliques. We’re a family. The support from the staff and other companions is great. If I’ve got a problem, I know there are people I can talk to.”