“I’ve been a companion at Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland for a few months now. I used to be homeless, so it means a lot to know I now have a home and people who work to support me. I moved here from Emmaus Gloucestershire to be closer to my son, and I’ve never looked back.

I live in the charity’s accommodation along with the other companions here. We normally help to run the charity’s shops but during the COVID-19 lockdown, these have been temporarily closed and we’ve been keeping safe at home.

The support team here at Emmaus have been great. Three times a week they come over for a socially-distanced drop-in session in our community building. It’s good to be able to have that face-to-face contact and I always make sure I nip in for a chat. I also know that I can call them 24/7 if I need to. I recently had a problem with accessing my prescription and knew I could phone to talk through what was happening. It was good to have a listening ear.

I am bipolar; the team have supported me to keep going with my medication and right now I’m in a good place with my mental health. It also helps me if I keep busy, so I’ve enjoyed chipping in to give our home a full deep clean, and even redecorated a couple of our bathrooms. It took two weeks of preparing, sanding and painting but they now look great. I’ve also volunteered to help prepare the shop ahead of reopening soon. We’ve been clearing out old stock and creating space for a new one-way system for customers. I’ve also been trained on a new tablet-based till system which we’re going to be using. All this work has really helped me keep going during lockdown.

The support team recently encouraged me to attend a national online meeting called the Companion Forum. I represented Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland and it was a good experience for me. I’m now officially the Companion Rep for the community and am enjoying this new challenge.

I’ve tried to stay positive through all this; I think it’s important to remember there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s been lovely to feel that the local community are supporting each other. In fact, a local volunteer recently made a batch of facemasks to donate to us, so we can all stay safe. Lockdown has been a challenge for all of us, but I’m now looking forward to the shop reopening soon, and getting back to a normal work routine. Bring it on!”

The view from our support team

Hayley Gall, Community Support Officer for Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland, has been supporting Shaun and the other companions:

“We were concerned when the COVID-19 lockdown happened, but the community has really pulled together. We’re really proud of all our companions, who have been working hard to maintain the community building and keep spirits up. We’ve been there for them when they needed it, and the face to face support sessions have gone very smoothly. It was great when Shaun, along with a group of others, volunteered to help us get the shop ready for reopening; their work has been invaluable.”