Emmaus Hertfordshire saved my life.

My homeless journey has been about ten years in the making. I’ve not been the luckiest person. I was married, but we broke up at the beginning of 2011. I went to live with my sister for a while, but I am not the most patient of people. I do have a bit of a temper, and although I keep it under control it does pop up occasionally, and I think I just pushed my luck too often.

My first foray into homelessness was with Open Door in St Albans. It was a completely alien world to me. I had great parents who looked after me, but I lost my dad in 1998, my mum four years later, and then I was on my own. I’d always had someone, always had some sort of safety net.

Open Door was OK; I had a bed which was better than sleeping “out there”.  I had one night out on the streets and that was enough for me. After Open Door I went to a place called Dens in Hemel Hempstead, and then I went to YMCA.

I had fits and starts of having work and money but it never quite worked out. When I was 55 (I’ve just turned 60 years old) I had a private pension come through that I had forgotten about. I had a nice few quid, but I am rubbish with money and got through my pension money in a year. I tried to make it on my own but it just didn’t happen.

I ended up in YMCA again, and during my third spell at YMCA they told me it would have to be my last. Although I wasn’t a problem resident, it was my third time there and it’s not really designed for the older resident. I was there 18 months before finding myself a lovely place in Hertford, but then the council put a technical spanner in the works. About a week before I was due to move the issues still hadn’t been resolved and it looked likely that I’d end up on the streets.

That really upset me, and at that time I was then of the mindset that I would rather be dead than out on the streets, and I considered killing myself.

Thankfully my key worker at YMCA told me about Emmaus Hertfordshire. I came here in September 2020. Shortly after I arrived, I managed to get myself a job and moved out for a brief period. Unfortunately, the job didn’t work out so I moved back in January 2021 and have been here ever since.

I have intermittent issues with anxiety. I had an episode yesterday when I just wanted to curl up and not leave my room. I had it bad for the first time two years ago. I was in the YMCA and had secured a job interview for a good job. I woke up and felt like I was wrapped up in barbed wire and couldn’t move and I was like that for five days. For the last two or three months I’ve been fine, but yesterday it flared up.

It was a bit of a culture shock when I first arrived at Emmaus. In other places I have stayed, if you want to stay in bed all day you can, and no one bothers you. You’re encouraged to mix, but you don’t have to. Here, you are not forced to mix, but it is actively encouraged. It is part of living as part of the community. I used to play pool with some of the other companions until I hurt my shoulder, and I use the computer room. I also took part in the Emmaus Hertfordshire summer fun afternoon in the park which I enjoyed.

Recently it was my birthday and I received a card signed by lots of the other companions which I was pleased with. There are people living here that I’d never thought I’d get on with but I do.

I’m currently recovering from a shoulder operation, so I am currently recuperating. When I am not recovering from surgery, I mainly work on the housekeeping side of things, keeping the community clean and tidy. I have worked in the shops too which I like. One day I took £1200 in the shop which I was very pleased with.  I used to work on my dad’s market stall and love being a salesman. The plan is to move me on to the phones so I can talk to customers when they call in.  I can talk for England, so I am looking forward to that!

When I left YMCA I was asked if I would go back to give a talk about Emmaus and my experience here. Sometimes Emmaus gets bad press because people think you only get a small allowance. But what people don’t understand is as well as the allowance, all my bills are covered while I am living here, I would never be able to afford to rent in St Albans by myself, and I get all my meals provided for me.

I’m not sure how long I will be at Emmaus. I know I can stay for as long as I want, but I can draw my pension in seven years and I have enough qualifying years to give me a state pension. I’ve chatted to my Support Worker Fin and we both agree that moving on right now would not be the right option for me. I need to get my head straight first. I thought I’d like my own kitchen, bathroom, lounge etc, but I’m not sure I do now. I’ve got used to being here at Emmaus, and it is giving me the space to get my head straight.