Emmaus has been a part of my life since 2010. I’ve been at three Emmaus communities but most of the time I was at Emmaus Mossley, close to where I’m originally from.
When I lost my mum, I had a bit of a downward spiral. I was with the ex-missus for a while and that didn’t go well. After that I was here, there and everywhere, sofa-surfing. There comes a point when you’re with your friends, spent so much on someone’s sofa, that you’re encroaching on their personal life.
At that point for me it was a case of going to Manchester and moving into the Salvation Army which didn’t go very well because I ended up walking out and technically made myself homeless. This meant the council kind of washed their hands of me which left me in the position of being on the streets for a fair while.
I went to a charity in Ashton at the time which was ran by an ex-companion of Emmaus. I’d been going for a couple of weeks, and he had a chat with me one morning, saying he’d spoken to someone at Emmaus Mossley about a room for me. He said to go up there the next morning and they’d see me about a room.
I hung around in the train station for most of the night and then went to Emmaus first thing in the morning, as soon as I saw someone arrive. I thought I’d have a chance to get in and get a bit warm. The Community Leader at the time could see I was so tired. He asked my name and a few small details and he said, ‘leave it at that for now, here’s a set of keys and I’ll show you your room’. It still gets me a bit emotional thinking about it to be honest.
It was a Thursday morning when I arrived and after being shown my room, I was told I didn’t have to start work until Monday. The Community Leader said that if I had any issues, come down to the office or knock on one of the neighbours. I must have slept a good 14 hours because I hadn’t slept properly for days. When I woke, I eventually found the kitchen and made myself a brew.
The first day I joined was scary – actually I’d never known anything like it. I had been in and out of hostels and it was case of turning up and seeing what awaited me. Emmaus was sold to me as you’ve got a bed there, a roof over your head and all you’ve got to do is turn up in the mornings and do a bit of work. Initially, I thought I was being sold a duff ’un to be honest, a cult or something. I soon realised it’s not a cult, it’s something different and somewhere I’d never experienced before, a one-of-a-kind place.
The morning after I arrived, I went to the community meeting to see what was going on and introduce myself to everybody. It’s very difficult to explain – you walk in as a new person to a place like this and you expect some animosity but that wasn’t the case – they treated me like I was family. I had a guard up as I’d trusted people before and I didn’t want to trust anybody but that only lasted a couple of days. It really did feel like an instant family, all in one go. When you get up in a morning and people are so polite, it’s unusual.
The first full week I was at Emmaus I started working on the van if I remember rightly, helping with collections and deliveries. I then started doing the kitchen and various other jobs around the community. At the time I was a bit annoyed to be put on other jobs because I liked being outside and on the van. I didn’t like working with customers on the tills or cooking for everybody, but you don’t realise how much you enjoy something until you start doing it. Since then, I’ve done every job in Emmaus apart from van driving.
I have a lot of fond memories of the many customers who come into Emmaus. You get some right characters who come in to shop. I don’t know what it is about Emmaus, you get everybody from every walk of life going in. From people with extreme wealth to people with not that much, I got to meet so many different characters from across society and that definitely helped with my confidence. I wasn’t very good with customers at the start but now I’m fine with all different types of people.
The biggest thing I’ve gained at Emmaus, I know it’s not much on paper, is self-confidence. When I first moved in, I thought I wasn’t worth much to be honest. I’d been homeless and all my mates knew I was homeless so I was as low as it could get. I believe in myself now more than anything.
Over time, on top of that, I got a lot of education and training, ranging from first aid training through to upholstery. I did the PAT testing course, gained my CSCS card, did fire marshal training, gained warehousing qualifications, a shop assistant qualification – qualifications coming from everywhere.
Out of all the training I did, it was the upholstery course I enjoyed the most. It was a week-long course offered to me and a couple of other companions. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it and thought it unlikely that we’d continue with the stuff we were taught. I did enjoy it though and after the course finished, I spent time in the workshop reupholstering items of furniture. It’s great to see that this has continued, and items are continually coming out of the workshop.
In my time at Emmaus, I’ve helped with solidarity work and other projects. For a while, I was at Emmaus Hastings and there, I took part in solidarity trips to Calais to donate items to the people staying in the camps. I also went to Emmaus Salford to help as a core companion when they first opened, to get the community ready for welcoming new companions. In Mossley, I’ve done a few litter picks and the canal improvement work a couple of times. More recently I have volunteered as a trustee for Stronger Together Tameside, a network supporting people who are homeless and vulnerable.
It took a long time to build my self-confidence back up. I built it up to a point where I got a bit lazy. I thought my self-confidence is great here, why should I test it somewhere else as it may not work out. During 2020 I was getting a bit complacent and frustrated with the fact I’d been in Emmaus for so long. My life was too easy and it wasn’t a challenge anymore.
It came to a point where Emmaus had done everything it could to help me and if I didn’t help myself, my life wasn’t going change. That’s the thing with Emmaus, they can only give you so much, the rest of it has got to be done by yourself and you’ve got to have that bit of ambition. If you haven’t got it, that’s fine and you’re OK to be at Emmaus but for me, it was a case of thinking there was something a bit better just around the corner.
All of a sudden, I started applying for jobs as I thought it’s about time I find something. Surprisingly I was getting job offers left, right and centre. I thought I might actually have something to offer somewhere else.
The first job I accepted was at an upholstery firm via an agency. I did a couple of weeks with them but the work wasn’t reliable so I left that job with the fear that it may be a few weeks before I could get another one. Three or four days later I found a new job at a packaging manufacturer to start the Monday after. Here we go again I thought – let’s see how this one goes. I started in March 2021 and have progressed within the firm – I absolutely love it.
The problem you’ve got these days with moving on is it’s great finding a job but then you have the bigger problem of finding somewhere to live. In this day and age, with high rents, guarantors and everything else, it is extremely difficult.
When I started work, outside of Emmaus, I was still living at the community. For the first six weeks I didn’t have to pay any rent at all, just saving up my wages to put towards a deposit. After that it was £70 a week for the next six weeks and then £100 until I found somewhere of my own.
At first when it came for paying my rent at Emmaus, I didn’t want to do it. I did start though and soon kind of appreciated it, paying my part and getting into the routine of paying bills. It also helped me to save, and I ended up saving quite a bit of money whilst I was still staying at Emmaus.
Originally it used to be a three-month move-on policy with some flexibility but from my experience, Emmaus Mossley has now updated the policy to make it much more flexible. Just before I moved out, I was coming not far off the six-month point and so I had a conversation with the Director. She said, ‘don’t worry about the time, that’s not the main concern, it’s about finding somewhere to live that’s most suitable for you that’s more important’. That was a great help because I was starting to stress about it.
The support I was given by the staff at Emmaus, whilst I was trying to find my own place, was superb. I hope the experience I’ve been through will help other companions in their transition to life after Emmaus.
I’ve now moved into a rented flat and for the first few nights, I wasn’t used to it being so quiet. From living with so many people it was a big change. After a day at work, I now love the peace and quiet, and it feels like I’ve got my life back. I’m still calling into Emmaus Mossley regularly, usually once a week on a Saturday. It’s kind of like family so if I don’t come and see everyone it wouldn’t be right.
Over the past 10 years, Emmaus Mossley has evolved a lot. I suppose in certain aspects, in my opinion, it’s become a bit more lax over the years but I think for some people, it needs to be. A lot of people who come in here struggle with issues, and if it’s too strict, they’re never going to get over them issues to start with. It’s about finding that fine line between giving people chances whilst not allowing people to take advantage of things.
Emmaus Mossley has evolved in many other ways and all you have to do is walk around the place, speak to people and see the changes. It’s one of those places that changes daily – not just the people or items in the shop – there’s all sorts going on behind the scenes.
If you shop or donate to Emmaus, your support, in the end, will be helping to keep a roof over someone’s head and that means more than anything to a lot of people.