I’m originally from Mossley and lived in a flat in Top Mossley. I met a lady, passed my driving test and life was good – absolutely brilliant. We got married, secured our own house and had a child together.

We started to have some problems though. I had issues with my knee because of a past accident and my wife was struggling with post-natal depression. We were under a lot of pressure. It ended up with us breaking up, amicably, but both of us struggling on our own. We tried to get back together but there was too much water under the bridge.

I moved house and was seeing my son but I was struggling with my health – both physically and mentally. Eventually I got into rent arrears, debt and then lost the house. I was on a downward spiral and was using drink and drugs regularly. After becoming homeless I moved in with my sister for a bit and then moved around hostels and B&Bs for a few years.

I managed to find a decent B&B and made a pact with myself to quit the drugs and get my life sorted out. Within six weeks I was the house manager and that responsibility gave me the motivation to stay clean. The owner of the B&B eventually sold up and the new owners came in with new plans. Eventually they turfed me out and I ended up in the worst place on earth, a horrible hostel in a really run-down area.

A birthday to remember

Thankfully Housing Options in Ashton helped me to get a place at Emmaus Mossley. The day I got the keys to my flat in Emmaus was on my birthday in 2007. I couldn’t believe it and was over the moon to have found a decent place with friendly people. They let me pick my own furniture and whatever I needed to get started. Everywhere else I’d been you had nothing and had to go out and buy your own furniture.

When I started at Emmaus I worked as kitchen porter, but I’ve always liked cooking so when the chance came, I jumped at it. Eventually I was on the rota as a cook and when I wasn’t cooking, I was on maintenance, painting and helping with building improvements. Over the years I’ve done lots of different jobs at Emmaus. I’ve worked on bric-a-brac sort, in the shop and in the café.

To help with the work, the staff at Emmaus encouraged me and other companions to do some training. I’ve done plenty of NVQs including Food Hygiene, Catering, Health & Safety in the Workplace, Maths and English, three lots of First Aid and I’ve recently gained an NVQ in Customer Service.

My extended family

Joining the Emmaus Mossley community was the best thing I ever did. There’s a lot of satisfaction, a peace of mind, a sense of security and wellbeing. If it wasn’t for the support group that’s involved with this charity I don’t know where I’d be. It is a massive support group – you become a companion and gain friends but more than that, it’s like having an extended family.

When it first opened, local residents of Mossley didn’t know what to think of Emmaus. They’ve definitely got their heads around it now and it has become a central meeting place. I think people know that homelessness can happen to anybody. My message to local supporters is keep coming to Emmaus because without your ongoing support, we wouldn’t be here.

To some extent, we support the local community as much as they support us. Where else can people go that is warm, to have a brew, to have a read, buy some bargains, access free Wi-Fi and chill out in a friendly place. People can spend a good few hours here and not spend much at all. Emmaus companions also get involved and contribute to the town, such as the litter-picks, canal towpath work and helping out at events.

Looking to the future

My plans for the future are to keep on improving, keep my mind straight and enjoy life. For the first six years at Emmaus I never went on holiday. I couldn’t justify the effort and hassle involved in travelling. Eventually I did go on holiday and then Emmaus helped me get a passport so I could travel abroad. Once I had a passport I went to Portugal with another companion and that was the first time I had been abroad in 25 years. I’ve been going away every year ever since.

2019 has been a very good year for me. I’ve quit smoking, lost three stone in weight and I’m feeling healthier than I have done in years. For the first time ever, I’ve not had a day off sick all year and broken my own record. This is a real achievement and something I’m really proud of.

From my own experience I would say my main message to anyone is never give up, because it is so easy to. Talk about your stuff with friends, share it and don’t bottle it up. Be strong and crack on because life can get better.