I was coming up for my 10th year with Emmaus Oxford when I got the offer for this flat. Ironically I received the news on my birthday in December which was a lovely surprise.

I had taken one of Emmaus Oxford’s employment spaces in June 2022 which gives companions looking to move-on the chance to work full-time while living in the community. Unfortunately, that job didn’t work out and I couldn’t find anywhere affordable to rent. I came back to work in Emmaus Oxford for a while and looked at other options. I was really pleased to get offered a council flat in late 2022.

Before I got the keys to my new flat I had a sneaky peak around the grounds just to see where it was. The outside of the building was really lovely and I couldn’t wait to see inside! I know one of the ladies who also lives here as she also came from Emmaus and she’d always raved about her flat – I can now see why!

When I was offered this place, I had one or two weeks to respond and I replied straight away because I didn’t want to miss out. They got back to me super-fast and the next thing they asked if I’d like to view it; that was only two weeks after I was offered it. I didn’t officially move in until January because we had to repaint all the rooms, except the kitchen and bathroom which had been freshly renovated.

A little help from my Emmaus friends

Some of the guys from Emmaus helped; there’s quite a few handymen in the community who were so supportive when I moved in, helping me with the painting, making sure everything worked and getting the furniture in, which was great. They also helped me to find flooring that was affordable. I couldn’t have done it without their help to be honest. It’s the first time renting for me, so I wouldn’t have had a clue! I wasn’t really sure whether I was ready for it but now I’m here I am thinking, ‘yes I can do this’.

Some of the furniture came from my old room at Emmaus and the rest of the furniture came from the Emmaus Oxford shop, so they’ve been a huge help with getting me started.

When I got the key to my new flat, I was absolutely delighted. The space is brilliant. I still can’t comprehend it if I’m honest. I spend more time standing up than sitting down because I’m stood there just looking at it! I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve never felt so excited to go to bed and get up – just having different rooms to go into is odd for me. It’s the first time I’ve had my own kitchen and I’m so excited because I love cooking.

Life at Emmaus

I worked in the shop in Barnes Road, Oxford, doing the tills mainly. I did do a little bit in the office, way back, and I also sorted the bric-a-brac for a while but mainly I settled on the tills in the end.

The security was nice; after having travelled around so much in my life it was nice to have somewhere that was mine to come back to at the end of the day. And there were always staff on hand if something came up I that needed help with. It didn’t feel like I was walking on a thin line constantly anymore.

Before Emmaus I was living in the YMCA after some difficult family issues. And coming from overseas, I had nowhere else to go; the rest of my family are scattered all over the world. I’ve been in the UK for about 15 years and, before that, I worked in Europe, working with horses.

I’m originally from Australia but my mum is from England, so I ended up coming back here with her. The only times I’d been to England before then were to visit my grandma once every few years. It was always a big event when we came to visit, so the fact I’m living here now is bizarre. After the YMCA I had nowhere to go but luckily one of the staff members had heard of Emmaus and recommended it. I was very lucky I avoided street homelessness. It all ended up being for the best in the end. It was quite surreal coming from a bad situation into a very chilled-out one. I’ve had years to grow and find myself again thanks to Emmaus.

I still keep in touch with my friends at Emmaus Oxford, I popped down there recently – they were doing an Indian dinner night and I got invited down and stayed for bingo afterwards. It was lovely to hang out with the guys again.

Looking to the future

My future plans will be to just keep on top of what I’ve got to do here, hopefully find work and then start socialising and feeling more adult. I’ve always been living under other people’s care or rules, so finally living on my own terms is quite surreal. I can start saving for holidays and go exploring and do all those sorts of things.

A support worker from St Mungos is helping me in relation to attending Job Centre meetings and finding employment. Ideally I’d like to find a quiet retail job, maybe part-time to start with. I do really miss being around horses and animals so any work in this area would be ideal. The only difficulty with me is that I don’t drive so if I could figure out a bus route or transport that would be absolutely great.

I definitely recommend Emmaus, there is no end of help if you ask for it; even if it’s just advice on little things like what sort of paint you should use on walls and ceilings as I don’t know about any of that. There’s always help if you need it, they’ve been a huge support to me.