I have been at the community since November 2012. My difficulties started when I split up with my girlfriend. We were living together and although we had been very close, we began to argue. In the end neither of us could find a way of keeping the relationship going. I think we really wanted different things from life.

The breakdown of our relationship meant that I became homeless. After telling me that they would be able to help, the council said they had nothing for me. They didn’t offer any alternatives and seemed quite indifferent to the fact that I had nowhere to go. I am from Hinckley originally and I have family and friends, but you can’t keep imposing on people. My parents are elderly and my mother has to care for my father who has dementia, so I couldn’t really stay there for long periods of time.

I ended up sleeping rough on and off for about seven months. I used to sleep in the toilet in a park. I never really knew where I was going to be from one day to the next.

The public can be very kind, but many treat you as if you are dirt on the floor and turn their faces from you as they walk past. It was difficult being homeless in the place where I had been brought up because people I knew saw me and it made me depressed to be in the situation I was in. I was cold and lonely and ashamed for a lot of the time.

I heard about Emmaus because I read a story about the organisation in the local paper – The Hinckley Times. In the paper they interviewed one of the residents, and I thought that they might be able to help me too. I got a place at Emmaus Leicestershire almost immediately after my interview. I was very quiet for the first couple of weeks after I moved in because I had become very used to keeping myself to myself, but once I got to know the routines and the people I began to open up.

It’s brilliant here. We all work nine to five and we cover for each other so that all the jobs that need to be done are done. I take my turn cooking for the companions – my speciality is a roast with proper potatoes and good gravy. When I first joined Emmaus I used to sort out all the thousands of books we had in stock and put them into sections in the shop. I was taught how to use the till, go out on the van from time to time and do general up keep around the shop.

I have been made been made a Retail Trainee to work alongside the Business Manager. I am really enjoying my new role and I’m very proud of the things I am achieving. You learn to work to the best of your ability. If you find something that interests you, the staff are there to encourage and support you. I’ve got my NVQ level 2 in Customer Service and I’ve now got qualifications in training in electrical PAT testing, Conflict Management, Business Management, Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Physics.

The main thing about being here is the friendship you have. There are a brilliant group of blokes here and although we have our own rooms and our own keys, we sit and eat together and watch television together. It’s like a family really. You learn to always treat people with respect – treat people the same way that you want to be treated. That’s the key to living together as a community. They don’t care about your past here, all they care about is helping us to have a fresh start. The public are sometimes a little suspicious of homeless people, but living and working here gives me the chance to talk to them and they get to know the person not the label.