“I’ve been homeless on and off throughout my life. The first time was in the late ’80s and early ’90s, around John Major’s recession.
I was about 17, just out of school, when I got in trouble with my mam. She didn’t want me at home anymore, so I just bobbed around Manchester for the earlier part of my life. I was younger and more happy-go-lucky in those days, so I just accepted it. It was hard though.
When you’re homeless, people look through you as though you’re not there, but I can understand that in some ways. We’ve all got problems, no matter where we’re living. I used to stay in old derelict buildings around the city. Some of the people I was there with had fought in WW2. It was a very different time back then. I didn’t do any ‘ham and egging’, what we call begging, but I sofa surfed for a while until people got fed up with me.
I would read a lot to pass the time. I have read so many books over the years that I’ve forgotten most of them now, but I like a whole lot of stuff, the Lee Child’s, Mark Dawson, I could go on. I’ve actually become a bit of a theologian as I’ve studied and read a lot about it. Reading helps me stay out of trouble and it’s good entertainment. You forget your situation when you read.
I moved down south in the 1990s and settled here for about 20 years. In the noughties, I got a job as a postman. I liked the walking and cycling part of it, but then the vans came in and the job became too much. I did some part-time cleaning as well, mainly office facilities. I really liked it, but what I would love to do is work on the boats and ships as a cleaner.
I moved to Worthing when that contract finished, and got some work there. But I was never on a good wage, so I couldn’t afford to keep my place and ended up back on the streets. I didn’t want to get into debt with anyone and searching for better paid jobs was not easy. It was a lot of pressure. Then about six years ago, my life became very unsettled. I ended up in hospital twice, the first time with a heart attack and eight months later with a bad shoulder after I fell off my bike. It wasn’t a good time.
I’ve been living at Emmaus Hastings & Rother for four years now, and it has really helped. I was destined to live in a shared house with people I wouldn’t have gotten on with, but here I’m in a place where I’ve got good companionship and the people have all come from the same direction as me. It’s easier ‘cos there’s a greater understanding of the problems we’ve gone through.
My job at Emmaus is on the shop floor in sales. I’ve been operating a new till system lately, which I’m still trying to get my head around, but I love talking to the customers. They treat me well and we often have a laugh together. Our customers are amazing, without them Emmaus just wouldn’t get the support it needs. We also do some work donating to the local foodbank, and I really enjoy that.
Emmaus is a lovely charity. It works for people and it’s good for the community. I came here and after the first couple of days knew I didn’t want to leave. I settled in very quickly. There’s a nice balance between looking after our wellbeing and taking care of the jobs that need doing. My friends think I’ll be in a zimmer frame before I leave!”