My name is Andy and I’m originally from Bournemouth in Dorset. When I was 11 I lost my mum to breast cancer. It spread all the way through and was a disaster. That’s where it all happened and went wrong for me. I ended up in care, getting kicked out of there and running away.

A few years later I found myself working on a fun fair – it was heavy lifting and long hours! In the summer months it was fine, I worked the fair and did odd bits and pieces, but come winter it was difficult. I also did catering throughout my life. I used to work in hotels as a kitchen porter. I ended up with arthritis in my knees and couldn’t do the fair much longer because it was too demanding. I ended up sleeping rough, on and off, for about six years and it was horrible.

Homeless in the snow

The last time I was on the streets there was three foot of snow. I was due a payment from the Job Centre but I didn’t get it until the day after we had the snow. I put some cardboard underneath my sleeping bag and stuffed cardboard inside. It was absolutely freezing. On the hour, every hour, waking up and thinking I need to move, I need to get my blood pumping.

I ended up in Leeds as the night shelter I was staying at made some enquiries around different Emmaus communities. Emmaus Leeds was the only one that had a place at the time. I got the 8:30pm bus at night and got into Leeds at 5:20am in the morning. I didn’t know where I was going and it just seemed like a massive city.

Life changing

I’ve been a companion at Emmaus Leeds since 2014. I work in the kitchen, shop, sorting room, down on the markets or wherever I am needed. At Emmaus they arrange different training courses for me. I’ve done my first aid training, three levels of the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food cooking course and also two levels of food hygiene.

I enjoy the friendships I have built at Emmaus. Once you make that first connection with Emmaus, it’s life changing. You come off the streets to a building and people you don’t even know but you make a friend, and then friends for life.

A group of us recently took on the challenge of walking up 6 mountains to raise money in memory of one of our friends and fellow companions, Steven Wall. Steven died of cancer last year and it was hard for all of us to lose a member of our community. I’m very proud to have helped raise nearly £2,000 and I have also lost a lot of weight from all the walking!

There for everybody

The things I love about Emmaus are the friendship, the support you receive and the security of your own place to live. In your heart of hearts you think wow; you know that Emmaus is there for everybody. It’s not just a bed for the night, it’s there for however long you need it.

To all Emmaus supporters I would like to thank you very much for your donations, purchases and support. Please keep going – every Emmaus needs that support. We’re formerly homeless people from all walks of life and we really value your support.