Inspiration comes in many different ways. I used to work in support services a long time ago, so I had heard of Emmaus from making referrals for homeless support. However, my awareness of the charity became more in-depth when I hit my own personal challenges. Over one Christmas I had the pinch of no work, out of a home and not able to support myself properly.

From the lack of education I’ve had and the anxiety of life, to the funerals I’ve gone to plus the many jobs I have done – now I’m older, these have been inspirational in their own ways. I’ve done many things, good and bad, yet unknown to me, we learn as we go and adapt to better ourselves. So, this is how I ended up at Emmaus Mossley.

It was just before Christmas 2018 that I was made redundant. I lived on my redundancy money for a while, on my own, trying to make ends meet and not bothering anyone. I didn’t like computers and telephone conversations so I struggled accessing the right channels.

That period of time I was living hand to mouth. I was sleeping under a basher (a military style canopy) in Daisy Nook Country Park, for about 8 months, on and off. I had my own morals in that I didn’t want people to see me down. Each night I went off the beaten track to find places where nobody would go. I was doing odd jobs for food like cutting someone’s hedges in return for lunch.

Hidden homelessness

I also had friends who let me sleep at their places from time to time. This included a friend who let me sleep on their sofa and another friend who let me stay in his commercial garage. It wasn’t right really and was a bit of a palaver. You feel that you’re intruding and putting on people, so you don’t want to rely on your friends and family network too much.

I didn’t want to touch into the services because I was still going through bereavement over my mother and all sorts. I was still trying to work things out in my own mind. Over the 2019 Christmas period it became a bit more difficult because of the winter weather. I was waking up freezing cold and it was starting to affect my health.

My doctor allocated me a nurse liaison called Ruth who helped me to get the support I needed and put things into a structured order. Ruth was my main contact point and she helped me make contact with the housing team at Oldham Council. It was the council who put me forward to join Emmaus.

I arrived with uncertainty and emotions high from A Bed Every Night. Having been interviewed by the staff, I explained my feelings and thoughts. I was invited to join the community and received respect and dignity from all. When I first came to Emmaus I walked from Oldham and it was raining like anything. It took me over two hours but the thing that made me happy was seeing the horses in the field through the mist at the top of Hartshead Pike.

Hartshead Pike horses

My new home

When I first moved into Emmaus my emotions were mixed. I had some anxiety about settling into a new place with lots of new people. I felt welcomed with open arms but a bit overwhelmed. On my very first full day I ended up walking up the canal just to absorb it all in. I was trying to find my feet initially but as time went on, I was more comfortable speaking to everyone. I’m a sociable person and inquisitive so that helped in a way.

When I joined in March 2020, the pandemic was just beginning to have an impact. Within a few weeks of me joining, the Secondhand Superstore had to close and everyone was in lockdown. Despite these lockdowns I’ve done a variety of jobs whilst I’ve been at Emmaus.

Helping out in the garden with a fellow companion has been good. We share a common interest and have a good rapport so we work well together. Other work has included painting, decorating, putting up stud walls and doing the scrap for a bit too. I’m fairly adaptable and always dived into manual work quite easily.

I’ve never been a planner, just a doer, but the staff have been helpful to give me advice, direction and inspiration. After a while they could see I take a hands-on approach and we came up with metal recycling which has led on to me learning how to weld and numerous welding projects.

Gary and Rob working together

Supporting each other

I’ve had a few companions who’ve come to me to chat about their challenges. All I can do is listen, give my opinion and refer them to the support staff if needed. It’s not in my capacity to give advice but as a community, we help each other out. Giving people time to chat over a game of pool, is a nice, easy thing I do to socialise and get to know people better.

The staff and companions are aware that we’re all different in terms of mental and physical capability. There are many options to be motivated with work or socialise, whether that be crown green bowling or themed projects in the house or out in the community. I find small rewards in going out litter picking – it shows we’ve got some responsibility towards the wider community. Emmaus has done a lot for me so the least I can do is help out where I can.

Reflecting on my Emmaus

Whilst I’ve been at Emmaus, I’ve got more positive thoughts, a better awareness and I’m trying to get myself into a more productive structure. I’m looking at the different options to get more benefit out of being at Emmaus. There’s training, experiences and trips to other Emmaus groups all over the world.

When I came to Emmaus I didn’t expect to be here for a year. I know for a fact I’d be struggling if I had to leave now. In future I want to keep my positivity high. I want to see other places and visit other Emmaus groups. Being here makes you aware of other communities. At the moment I feel like a teardrop in an ocean just touching the surface. I’m discovering more and more what Emmaus can offer and what I can give to others.

At Emmaus my self-respect has grown. Where I struggled with finding inspiration before, I know I can find it here at Emmaus. You never know what avenues you’re going to go down but there’s always some lovely people you meet along the way. From the story of Abbé Pierre, to another companion’s life story, there’s empathy and guidance here, and we all have time for each other. This is my Emmaus and its working for me.

To those who support Emmaus – thank you for the support and making others aware of what we do – it’s the power of grapevine. Over the past year we’ve had many supporters who have been storing up items at their homes during lockdown to donate to our charity especially. Thank you very much for the support, contributions and thoughtfulness.