Andy led a “normal” life, he was married with children, and had a job and a home. However, everything changed one day when he returned from work to discover his bags neatly packed at the door, accompanied by a letter revealing that his spouse had found someone else. In the aftermath, Andy spiraled into alcoholism, leading to the loss of both his job and his home.

“When I became homeless I found myself sleeping in tents in the south downs, I tried to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre as I knew dangers lurked. I’d heard so many stories of homeless people being beaten set on fire and I didn’t want that to be me. I didn’t beg, I don’t blame anyone who does but that just wasn’t what I wanted to do. Everyday I’d find a day centre that I should get some breakfast at, and take a shower and have a shave.

One day I woke up with ice on my sleeping bag, freezing cold, and it gave me the confidence to say to myself ‘this has got to stop’. That’s when I found Emmaus and since then I haven’t looked back. If it wasn’t for Emmaus I think I would have died of hypothermia.

I’ve lived at a few of the Emmaus communities but I came to Emmaus Leeds in 2021. I’ve done all sorts since coming here, from upholstery, to driving the vans, cooking, working in the allotment when we had one, I’ve gained lots of skills. The thing about me is, when I’m asked to do something, I just get on and do it. I feel so grateful to Emmaus so I want to make sure I’m giving back.

Giving back is very important to me, every Thursday I help Homeless Street Angels with their outreach. We travel around Leeds city centre delivering food parcels and other essential items to rough sleepers. Recently someone I met whilst volunteering on outreach, came to live at Emmaus Leeds after I encouraged him to come. It’s nice to think I had a hand in getting someone off the streets. Emmaus Leeds often donate to Homeless Street Angels, items like tents, coats and sleeping bags are really useful to people sleeping rough. I’ve really seen an increase in people on the streets recently, it’s gotten so much worse, the other day we gave out 30 sleeping bags in one night. I want to help because I know what its like to be in that situation.

After living in Emmaus Leeds community home for the last 3 years, I recently moved out to live in my own in a flat through the move on scheme. I moved in in November and have spent the last couple of months decorating and making it look nice. Emmaus Leeds let me choose lots of furniture and other bits to furnish the flat. They said I could take what I wanted because they know I’ll keep it nice. I like to keep my flat clean and tidy, everything has a place! I have a routine, I wake up in the morning have a shower, have breakfast, wash up, make my bed and then head to Emmaus Leeds to do some work. It’s a peaceful life here.

I am so grateful for the kindness Emmaus has shown me, without them I don’t know where I’d be. They’ve given me a roof over my head and so many opportunities to further myself. I know I have support from them in whatever I need. I think about the life I have now and think, ‘who wouldn’t want this?’.

I think we’re all capable of helping other people, no matter how small the gesture is. I remember a time when I was homeless, I used to sit in a park waiting for the day to pass by and a man walked past me ever other day whilst he was walking his dog. He would come up to me and give me a tenner, he wouldn’t say a thing but he’d let me stroke his dog and then he’d walk away. He did that for months and I’ll always remember that.