I went to boarding school and received a very good education. I’ve been married twice and have four grown-up children.
When I was a young father, I worked hard with a good job. I spent thirty years in community transport management and gave up a lot of my free time to be a referee in the local football league. I thoroughly enjoyed my time giving back to my local community and sharing the experience of sport with others.
My second marriage broke up due to my own lack of self-control. I struggled to find a balance between work and home life and I now recognise that I became a workaholic, first and foremost. My wife was unable to make me recognise this behaviour, despite her best efforts. I left the family home, which was very hard, and drank to cope with the pain I felt.
Eventually my drinking habit caught up with me and I lost my job. Life started to spiral out of control. When you have lost your focus and self-discipline, it does not take too long to lose track of your finances. For me this meant I could not pay my rent. I soon found myself sleeping rough and continued to drink.
I spent an entire winter sleeping rough. I was able to find a safe and dry place to sleep every night in a small car park under an office block.
I felt confused at the situation I was in. How did I let it come to this? Worryingly, I had lost my ability to visualise how I was going to recover the situation. I learnt to become resourceful to make sure I was fed and watered. I was offered kindness by local people who I had never met who simply spoke to me in my desperation. They were so kind and provided me with tokens for food, free coffee at the library and hot food twice a week. I was overwhelmed by their kindness and promised myself that I would never put myself in this position again, if only I could recover the situation.
The police station was directly opposite the car park so the local police also looked out for me to ensure I was protected from any late night revellers.
After a while, I became part of a group of rough sleepers that had been growing within the town. It was among this group that I learned of the work of Emmaus Hampshire, and I applied to join as a companion.
From the moment I walked into this fabulous community I was able to sleep safely again and I withdrew from using alcohol as a dependency.
My own personal discipline and the recognition that I never wanted to be homeless again, coupled by my gratitude towards Emmaus, drove me to withdraw from drinking in the way I had in the past. I feel blessed that I have been able to do this for myself.
Over the last few years that I’ve been at Emmaus Hampshire, I’ve been allowed a huge amount of scope to contribute to the running and success of the community. I’ve been involved in the retail shops and have been responsible for selling recycled furniture. I’ve also been a community chef and catered for my fellow companions. I particularly enjoy cooking Sunday brunch.
I manage the community’s distribution service and the training of the drivers who deliver recycled products and collect customer donations.
Most recently, I’m proud to have been appointed to deal with Emmaus Hampshire’s health and safety policies after undertaking training. For this I report directly to the Board of Trustees.
One of Emmaus’s guiding principles is to encourage all the companions to recognise their improved fortunes and to seek out others who may be disadvantaged and in need. Emmaus call this solidarity.
I’m proud to be involved in an array of solidarity projects that help individuals or families. These range from gardening for the elderly, painting a flat for the people with disabilities, building flat pack furniture and supplying beds to single parents setting up home.
Projects like these give me enormous pride. Not only have I turned my life around, but I can now help others too.
I know that when I feel ready, Emmaus Hampshire will help me to find a home outside of the community for over 55’s. However, when that day comes, I’m determined to continue to volunteer at the community.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy the friendships of my fellow companions and provide the best service I can to Emmaus Hampshire’s customers.
I always look forward to Emmaus Hampshire’s open evenings, which are held twice a year, so I can say a big thank you to the supporters for everything they have done for me. I think Emmaus is the country’s best kept secret and I would love to do more to promote the work of Emmaus to those in need.