My life started out pretty well. My dad was a lorry driver and I always wanted to be like him. I really enjoyed driving so I started working in haulage. I met someone, got married and we started a family together.
Then it all went downhill and I’ll admit that it was all my fault. I began using cocaine at weekends and then on weekdays too. Eventually, drug abuse cost me my marriage and my home. With nowhere to go, I started rough sleeping. My children were really young back then; they would come to visit me on the streets or sitting in a McDonalds. Children shouldn’t have to go to school knowing that their dad is living in a tent in a field.
Being homeless was hard but it was because of my children that that one day I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to let them down anymore. I managed to go cold turkey and get myself clean. I’m proud that I haven’t had a drink or taken any illegal drugs since. Once clean, I managed to get a council property for a while, but I was always looking to find someone to settle down with. Like many people, I don’t think I’m designed to live on my own so when I met someone, I decided to go for it. I gave up my flat and moved in with her.
Unfortunately, that relationship didn’t last and once again I had nowhere to go. I approached the local YMCA for advice and they suggested getting in touch with Emmaus. In the years that followed, my life has been complex but Emmaus communities have helped me so much. I’ve spent time at Emmaus Hertfordshire and Emmaus Hasting & Rother; then I moved to Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. Each one has given me accommodation and support when I needed it most.
There have been long periods when I’ve led a relatively normal life and also times where I’ve been homeless again. At one point I was back living in a tent for six months. I found a campsite but it was winter and obviously, there was no heating. It snowed a lot and I was so cold; it was horrible. I’ve used night shelters too. They’re good if you need a place to sleep but each morning you get kicked out and have to walk the streets. For over a year I lived in the back of a transit van. I was trying to hold down my job at the same time so I would pretend I was going home to my house each evening, but I was actually just parking in a layby. As a lorry driver you have access to showers at work, so I was always clean and presentable.
Eventually I got together with my current partner. I transferred my job to a different depot so I could be nearer to her. I still had nowhere to live so I slept in the lorry for six months until I saved up and bought a second-hand caravan. The company let me park the caravan in their transport yard.
When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, I was furloughed and I finally lost my job. I also lost my home, as I couldn’t live in the transport yard anymore. That’s when I decided to get in touch with Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. Luckily for me, there was a spare room and they invited me to move in. It was such a warming feeling to get a proper roof over my head and feel safe.
I found the work routine at Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland so valuable. I helped with the van, collecting and delivering furniture to customers in the local area. For me, it was so important to feel like I was doing something worthwhile with my day.
Emmaus funded me to get my Class 1 articulated lorry license, which allows me to drive the largest lorries on the road. I never thought I’d do it and I owe the support team here a huge debt of gratitude.
The cherry on the cake is the fact that I started applying for driving jobs and was recently offered a full-time role as an articulated lorry driver. I’ve just started and it’s going really well. Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland are letting me stay in my room whilst I get settled into the job, and then I’m planning to move in with my partner.
It’s just brilliant. I’ve taken to it like a duck to water! I choose to work the night shift as there’s less traffic on the roads. I bought myself a car so I can commute to work. Sometimes I pinch myself and think ‘am I really an articulated lorry driver now or did I just dream it all?!’ When I received my first paycheck I paid off all my debts; it felt so good.
I’m now very excited about the future. Without Emmaus, I certainly wouldn’t even have a roof over my head right now, let alone a well-paid job. The help they’ve given me has been nothing short of life-changing and I’m extremely thankful.