I suppose you could say Emmaus has rescued me on multiple occasions. Emmaus was there for me after I become homeless, gave me support when I needed open-heart surgery and helped me secure my own flat.

I had a relationship break-up and because we had moved in together, I suddenly realised I had nowhere to go. This is how I became homeless and then, rather stupidly, I used drink as a form of escape. I found myself getting into a bit of trouble and my situation became more difficult.

My first encounter with Emmaus was at the Emmaus Hertfordshire community. Being new to Emmaus at the time, it was just such a huge change in lifestyle that I struggled to adjust and settle in. I left St Albans to join a different support group in Watford but found it wasn’t helping so I got them to refer me to Emmaus Leeds because I’d heard good things.

Moving to Leeds

Initially I had a phone interview with the support staff at Emmaus Leeds. They invited me up to see how I liked it and I was very impressed so joined in May 2011. It was relatively easy to settle in because the companions and staff who were there at the time were extremely friendly and helpful. I made some really good friendships in Leeds and I’m still in contact with a few of the people to this day.

Primarily at Emmaus Leeds I was working in their main shop. When I arrived I was helping out with the bric-a-brac. The staff heard I had previously been employed as a retail manager, so I got more involved in different areas of the shop and enjoyed that thoroughly. It was an interesting place to work with so many hidden gems coming in all the time.

Working in the shop at Emmaus gives you a sense of purpose because you’re getting up in the morning for something worthwhile. You’re not just sat around doing nothing – you’re working and helping others so that, in itself, is a really good experience.

The staff at Emmaus Leeds were fantastic, especially when I underwent open-heart surgery. Right throughout, the staff and my fellow companions supported me through what was a very trying time. They took me off work duties, brought me meals to my room and just gave me the time and support I needed to get better. As I got stronger, I wanted to get working again so was given some light duties, helping with spreadsheets, database projects and assisting with the weekly allowance packets.

Securing my own flat

My family travelled up to see me following my heart surgery and that period highlighted just how far away they were. They all lived down south and so I started having discussions about moving to another Emmaus community closer to where they live. I came to the conclusion that this was a really sensible thing to do, especially as I get older.

Around May 2014 I moved down to Emmaus Hampshire based in Winchester to be closer to my children. I was in Winchester for about two years and again received some fantastic support. The team helped and advised me to get on the housing list with the local council. I was bidding for flats all the time and then someone from the housing office contacted Emmaus to suggest a flat for me. It was when I went to have a look at the flat that it ticked a lot of boxes so I decided to take it.

I wasn’t employed at the time so relied on job seeker’s allowance. My time was spent applying for various jobs and I had a fair few interviews. I began to think nobody would employ me due to my age and health conditions. It took about six months until I secured a job and feel fortunate that I took the job I did. It’s only a 10-minute walk from my flat and I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work again.

Working helps to keep me going. Having that structure is really useful, and that’s true of life at Emmaus too. I now have a home, a job and live close to my family.

Great support and friendships

The support and guidance at Emmaus were second to none. The staff help you see the bigger picture and highlight different routes for developing and moving on. I’ve not heard of another charity that does that. I’m still in touch with a lot of companions from Leeds and Winchester. I’ve formed some really great friendships with some great people over the years. I’m eternally grateful for the support but also the companionship.

I have recommended Emmaus to various homeless people and personally think that getting some structure back in your life is so important. There are a lot of people out there who could benefit greatly by joining a charity like Emmaus.

I would like to say thank you so much for the help I’ve had. Thank you to the support workers, staff and volunteers but also thanks to the customers, the regulars and people who donate items. Right across the board it’s such an amazing charity and quite understated. I always try and recommend Emmaus and, as many people have said to me in the past, it’s a real hidden gem.