Five years ago, I was working with a private developer and he ran out of work. I had to go to the building site and look for work, but I didn’t have a CSCS card. I had been working for a private developer and he didn’t need one. There was a three month wait to get a CSCS card, and at the time I was living in a sub-letting, so I couldn’t get a job.
The guy who I was sub-letting off needed his flat back, as his business over in Ireland had gone belly up. So I went to the council, but they wouldn’t help.
Luckily it was summer and it was quite warm, so I would often sleep outside. But I was 53 years of age.
I went to a funeral and my mate told me about Emmaus. I’d never heard of them before but he thought they could help and I should come down and visit.
I went to Emmaus Greenwich and spoke to Giorgio here, on the 24th August 2010 and they started me off with an induction. They asked me how long I thought I’d be here and I said about six to eight weeks, just to get my CSCS card, and then I can move on.
I knew within four weeks I’d made my mind up to stay. Five years on I’m still here. I just love the concept of Emmaus, I love helping people less fortunate than myself. I like the way we do it here, going all over the world and helping people, it’s great you know.
I’ve been offered hundreds of jobs but I haven’t taken them, because I just love what Emmaus does and I’m happy here as a carpenter.
When I was young I completed my City & Guilds advanced craft, so I don’t really need to do anymore training. Emmaus Greenwich has offered training in other areas, but you always need a carpenter in the wood workshop and I love teaching people how to do it properly.
Over the five years I’ve been here, I have helped teach dozens of companions how to build wardrobes and how to build beds. Emmaus gives you time to teach people, they don’t hurry you up.
Here I have learnt patience and how to get on with people better. We’re all here for different reasons. Some people take more time to open up to you and you have to take time to let them open up. I’m one of the senior ones now, being here five years, so I often take some of the new companions under my wing and help ease them into the community.
There is a sign on the side of our community house stating that we work for our bread. Working here, while living, it gives you back your dignity and your self-respect. When I first got here I was so low, down with no work, but in just a few weeks I felt like I was back up there and good again. That’s what makes it different to other places.
If you’re homeless and you go to a hostel, you’re just lazing about. They don’t know where you’re from, when you leave or when you come back. You could be doing all sorts. Here, you work, and there’s no drink or drugs which I one hundred percent agree with.
I do a lot of solidarity work here. It’s what I love most. We help single parents with children and they have nothing. We build them furniture and a bed, for nothing, and sometimes you end up crying because you see someone that grateful and for that little. They’ve got nothing but we’ve given them something. That’s what makes it all worthwhile, and that’s what gives you back your self-esteem.