“My life has been full of uncertainty. I never knew what was around the corner when I was homeless and on the street, but with the help of Emmaus I am now in full-time employment and have a place to call home.
I’m originally from Maidstone, Kent, and came from a very broken family network. I didn’t get on well with my step-dad – it was that classic new man in my life who wasn’t my dad. As a teenager, I began to rebel. I started smoking weed and left school and home at 16.
When I found myself in a 16-25 hostel, I was rubbing shoulders with people in their 20’s, which is a big age gap. Hostel life is not a good environment either – you don’t have an agenda for the day and you have so much time on your hands that it’s hardly a surprise that so many people fill it with drink and drugs. At 16, and only smoking weed at time, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of Class A drugs which I knew nothing about beforehand.
At 18, I needed a change of scenery and made my way to Cambridge. My fresh start came with complications as Cambridge is very strict on having a local connection, so I found it difficult to get housed. I was in and out of night shelters and did a couple of rounds in hostels, but there were so many nights I couldn’t get a bed and I started to sleep rough. During those nights, I barely felt anything because I was so out of it. My only goal in life was to make money to get some drugs and that’s all I cared about at the time. I did work on-and-off during these years but couldn’t hold a job down because I would end up going on a bender at the end of the month with my pay and then get fired.
Luckily, in 2010, I found Emmaus. I was at a night shelter and at first, I was sceptical to sign off benefits, but thought I’d give it a try. I moved into the Cambridge community and straight away I saw what I could get in return for signing off my benefits and it was amazing – a purpose through work, a home and people to live with.
I was barely 20, however, and I didn’t get Emmaus the first few times; what they stood for and how they could improve my life. Looking back, I don’t think I was ready to accept the support and I only stayed there for six months before getting kicked out. The community let me back a second time, but it wasn’t until the third time, when I was in quite a desperate place and an emotional wreck, that I gave it a proper go. Initially, they turned me down the third time, which I knew was fair enough after being kicked out twice. So, I’ll always be grateful when they did get in contact with me and offered the lifeline I desperately needed. This time, I knew I needed to make something of myself at Emmaus.
I went on to live at the Cambridge community for three years. For a long time, I was still reeling from being a wreck that I kept my head down. I would volunteer on the vans and in the shop, but I shut everyone out, didn’t socialise, and got into my own routine to get me through. This helped me heal until I got the confidence to do something more – all I needed was the time that Emmaus offers. When I was ready, I did a detox of my methadone and suddenly all these doors started opening for me. I got my driving license and did a two-year apprenticeship in site maintenance at Cambridge Regional College, which I completed in 18 months at the age of 23. This gave me some stepping stones and goals to focus on and helped me to grow up.
In 2015, despite life getting back on track, my past demons crept up whilst still at the Cambridge community and I had to spend some time in hospital as I was a risk to myself. After I was discharged, I transferred to Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney – it was new and the perfect place to regain some focus. I was there for ten months until an opportunity for a maintenance role came up at Emmaus Hertfordshire.
I wanted to put my apprenticeship to good use, so I applied and was successful. It was an in-between role – not a resident, but still not quite staff. I was paid a little bit more money and had my own self-contained flat within the community. The role was going well, but it was the honeymoon period and I began to doubt myself and my work. I began to put too much pressure on myself and I was thinking and waiting for something bad to happen. I had no need to be like that though – Emmaus Hertfordshire weren’t putting pressure on me and all the support was there, I just didn’t see it. The self-doubt tripped me up and I attempted suicide, which wasn’t for the first time.
After that, I had an Emmaus sabbatical. I was in a hostel and it was hellish. I felt as though all those years getting myself right had gone and there was no coming back from it – I’d either be dead or in prison. At my worst, I contacted Cambridge again, moved there in November 2016, and eventually returned to Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney where I spent two years.
Without all these lifelines and second chances, I wouldn’t be able to now say that I am living independently and working as a full-time paid van driver at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney. I was so happy and a little nervous to start the role, but I know the job inside and out and the rest of the Norfolk staff are great.
I don’t resent my experiences as it has helped me to become who I am today and with the help of Emmaus, I have finally been able to get my life back.”