“Emmaus is there for everybody and has given me another chance in life.

I’m originally from Bournemouth in Dorset and my childhood was very hard and painful. When I was younger, I was sexually abused by a family member. I never told anyone and felt so scared in life and came to trust nobody.

When I was 11 years of age, my mum passed away from breast cancer. It spread all the way through and was a disaster. I sat by her side for days before she went. She was my rock and still is to this day.

After that, I went through the care system, in and out of kid’s homes. I lived with my sister and her boyfriend for a time but that didn’t work out. I can still remember clearly sitting down for dinner one day. There was brussels sprouts on my plate, and I didn’t eat them. My sister’s boyfriend got angry, telling me that if I didn’t then they’d be there tomorrow too.

The day after came, and true to his word they were there. I still didn’t eat them, and he dragged me by the scruff of my neck and hit me again and again until I slid down the back door. In those days, that was normal for me.

I lost my sister when she took her own life and at 16 my dad died. I ended up running away from care and found myself sleeping on a friend’s sofa while working on the fun fair. It was heavy lifting and long hours with not very much pay. I worked on the fun fair for 15 years as well as working in a few catering jobs.

When friends started to get fed up of letting me stay, I started to sleep rough. I did that, on and off, for about six years. It was horrible.

The last time I was on the streets was in 2014. There was three foot of snow. I was due a payment from the Job Centre, but I didn’t get it until the day after we had the snow. I put some cardboard underneath my sleeping bad and stuffed cardboard inside. It was absolutely freezing. On the hour, every hour, I was waking up and thinking I need to move, I need to get my blood pumping.

I knew that I needed to get myself help and walked 11 miles to the next town. I came across a drop-in centre, who asked if I’d ever heard of Emmaus. I moved into the Leeds community shortly after. When I arrived in Leeds, I didn’t have a clue where I was going, and it seemed like a massive city.

At Emmaus Leeds, I worked in the kitchen, shop, sorting room, down on the markets, and wherever else I was needed. I was given the opportunity to do some training too. I did my first aid, three levels of the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food cooking course, and two levels of food hygiene.

While I was there, a group of us took on the challenge of walking up six mountains to raise money in memory of our friend, Steven Wall, who also lived at Emmaus Leeds. Steven died of cancer and it was hard for all of us to lose a member of our community. I’m very proud to have helped raise nearly £2,000 for the local hospice.

In 2017, I left Emmaus Leeds and moved in with a woman I had met. I became her full-time carer, but I had a nervous breakdown and the relationship ended. I wasn’t in a good place then and knew I needed help again.

I moved to Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney in 2019 and was shown round by another companion, Colin, who made me feel very welcome. I’m grateful for all the support that I get from everyone at the community and I’d like to thank them all for giving me another chance in life.

The thing with Emmaus is that once you make that first connection, it is life changing. You arrive and meet people you don’t even know but you make friends for life. The support you receive and the security of your own place to live is invaluable. In your heart of hearts, you think wow; you know that Emmaus is there for everybody. It’s not just a bed for the night, it’s there for however long you need it.

To all Emmaus supporters I would like to thank you very much for your donations, purchases and support. Please keep going – every Emmaus needs that support. We’re formerly homeless people from all walks of life and we really value your support.”