I grew up in the Yorkshire area with my mum, dad and two brothers. It wasn’t exactly a stable home environment as my parents divorced during the mining strike.
I became homeless the first time in 2005, the year before my dad committed suicide. Mum and dad had just split up, I couldn’t find any work, my family wasn’t what it was, so I just upped and left. I was always resilient and could stand on my own two feet. My nan always said that I could take care of myself. I went to Brighton looking for a better life. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but it wasn’t work, and it wasn’t a home. The first night I stayed in a hostel. As hostels go, it was okay. You put your name down, you get told to go away and then come back at a certain time. You get your head down and sleep and then leave the next morning. It’s only a bed and somewhere warm to sleep. It’s not a home.
I slept rough for a while when I couldn’t get a room in a hostel. How can you describe the feeling of living on the streets to someone who has never experienced it? You never really close your eyes. If you have any sense you sleep with one eye open. I avoided the towns and stuck to the outskirts. In the busy town centres, there were people who would jump you if you had anything of value on you. Sometimes they would jump you just because. There were times when I thought about ending it all, but there was always something holding me back.
I got some seasonal work on a funfair and at holiday camps, but it didn’t really accomplish anything long-term. I decided to go back up to Yorkshire, but it didn’t work out and I ended back down south. I was homeless again and sleeping rough. It wasn’t until I was referred to Emmaus by Anti-Freeze in 2018 that I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The day I walked into Emmaus Hastings was emotional. There was no judgement, no hostility. If someone had told me the year before that I would have a home, that I wouldn’t have to worry about where my next meal was coming from, or where my next hot shower would be, I would have laughed in their face. Before Emmaus Hastings I thought about jumping off the end of the pier.
I have been at Emmaus Hastings for a year now and I can’t imagine life being any different. The other companions that live here are more than just friends; they’re family. Sure, we have our ups and downs, like any family, but we have each other’s backs. We support one another. Emmaus Hastings has helped me pass my Health and Safety levels 1 and 2, as well as English and Maths. I’m in my 50’s and I never thought, in a million years, that I would be training. It’s a great opportunity.
My goal is to have my own little place by next Christmas, but I’m not rushing. I left too soon to go and work in a hotel a few months ago and it was a big mistake. I rushed into it and thought I could go at it alone. Sallie, my support worker, let me come back and I’m taking it slow this time. If Christmas comes next year, and I’m not ready, I won’t push myself. I want to do everything right, and Emmaus gives you that. There isn’t a rush to give the room to someone else.
Now I am just taking each day as it comes. I work in the Emmaus shop in Battle taking inventory, greeting customers, cashing up and I love it. Before Emmaus Hastings there was no support from anywhere else that would have given me the confidence to work in a shop like this, let alone the support to wake up and live each day. If it wasn’t for Emmaus, I’d be 6ft under.