Steve Bourn shares how his volunteer placement at Emmaus North Staffs helped and is calling on others to consider volunteering, by sharing his story here…
“I had quite a good childhood and a decent family life. Then when I was 18 I started going out partying and using drugs. Soon I was addicted to heroin and cocaine. This led me down the path of drug dealing and getting involved in gang activity. I lost touch with all my family. There were court appearances and I did a couple of prison sentences.
That was my life for many years. At the peak of my addiction, I was admitted to hospital more than once, as my body couldn’t cope with the substance abuse. I was very lucky not to have died.
It was just before Christmas in 2013, when I was 31, that I decided to try to turn my life around. I was released from being on remand in prison and the judge spoke about me needing rehabilitation and support with my problems. When they let me go, I was wearing my prison tracksuit; I had no other clothes, no phone and no money. I told them I had nowhere to go but they just suggested trying a night shelter. I visited a few but they were all shut. I remember wandering the streets with everyone else out doing their last minute Christmas shopping, and realising I was actually homeless.
I plucked up the courage to get back in touch with my family. My sister told me about a support organisation for people affected by drugs, crime and homelessness. I moved in and after 12 months of hard work, I was clean off drugs. I also started to rebuild my family relationships and became a Christian.
When I left, I got a job and moved in with my partner; soon after, we found out she was pregnant. We got married, had the baby and everything was brilliant for a while. Then my wife suffered from post-natal depression and things got dark. I relapsed. My wife, who also has a history of drug abuse, relapsed too. It all started to spiral. We knew we had to get clean for good. We had a newborn baby so we asked a family member to take care of her, while we both got the support we needed.
With help, we both finally got clean, and have been ever since, but then we had a long drawn-out court process to regain full custody of our daughter. During that time, I was living in a supported house run by Walk Ministries and I started volunteering with Emmaus North Staffs four days a week. I was there for nine months. The staff at both organisations really helped me get through that horrible time, until we were finally awarded custody.
Volunteering at Emmaus North Staffs was great. I mainly assisted with sorting and arranging the items ready for sale in the Emmaus Furniture Mine store in Hanley. I also used to love going out on the vans, collecting and delivering to customers. The people at Emmaus North Staffs were very friendly and supportive, and the work schedule helped a lot because a big part of recovery from addiction is having structure and routine. It really helped me stay on the straight and narrow; I had a purpose – something to get up for each day. I’d only ever done drug dealing and manual labour to earn money in the past. It gave me confidence to know that I could be a positive member of a working environment.
I really appreciated being given the opportunity to get some work experience and I made friendships that have lasted. Even though I now work elsewhere as a Development Coach with local homelessness charity Concrete, I still keep in touch with the guys at Emmaus.
In my job now, I support young people aged 16 to 18 who are having difficulties; I use my own experience to help me mentor them. I want to help these young people avoid all the horrible stuff and the heartache that I went through. I try to help them to make the right decisions, so they don’t go down that path of drugs, addiction and prison.
It’s all been quite a journey for me. I’m 38 now and my time at Emmaus had a massive part to play in getting me where I am today. The volunteering kept me focused and the staff’s support meant so much, especially at a time which was so stressful. For me, the best way of getting a meaningful job is showing that you’re capable and willing to it. Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate on your CV that you can do good work. Plus, because Emmaus North Staffs is a charity, you’re actually ultimately giving back to the wider community when you volunteer there. I can’t thank them enough and I would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone.”
Emmaus North Staffs offers various volunteer opportunities including maintenance, shop floor assistance, helping to run our furniture collection van service and office admin tasks. Our charity particularly encourages local people with disadvantaged or unconventional backgrounds to volunteer, who might benefit from the experience and sense of routine it offers.