I lived in Kent all my life and raised my five children there. My job was working with special needs children but it was part-time plus some volunteering. I did this for twelve years, as my kids grew up and started to leave home to lead their own lives. Eventually though the debts piled up and I couldn’t afford to pay my rent.
Nobody told me I could get a rent top up because I was working part-time; my rent arrears kept building up. When it got to £1,000 they evicted me. They just kicked me out.
I ended up staying on my friend’s sofa. I was very lucky not to be rough sleeping. I don’t like to think about what could have happened. The experience of being homeless would have a huge impact on anyone, but I think being a women out there alone is a scarier prospect. I was so fortunate not to end up vulnerable on the streets.
I used to visit a local day centre who would provide meals and also give advice. After about six months, someone there recommended applying to Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire. I had a phone interview and they said ‘can you travel here tomorrow?’ so I moved in the next day. I was there for eight months and then moved to Emmaus Village Carlton in Bedfordshire, where I stayed for three years. A few months ago I decided to move to Emmaus Oxford and I’ve settled in well.
Emmaus is brilliant and feels like one big family.
Everybody’s been in the same situation but we all have different stories. It’s helped me do so many things and opened up so many opportunities for me. I’ve been supported to get many qualifications over the years. I’m qualified to use a forklift truck and achieved NVQ Level 2 in Warehousing and Storage, Level 3 Food Hygiene and Level 3 First Aid. The support team here at Emmaus Oxford is amazing. They know I’m ready and so they push me – in a good way – to try new things. I’m proud that I now have a diploma in Special Needs Education and am working to complete a course on Children and Young People’s Mental Health. I plan to start another soon, to learn more about children’s cognitive behaviour. All my training has been paid for by the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund.
I’ve helped out in many different roles during my time with Emmaus; I’ve worked in shops, cooked in kitchens, served café customers and operated a forklift, but my favourite thing is when I work on the vans. I really enjoy getting hands-on, collecting and delivering furniture for customers. Every week I also like to help out by cooking hot meals for the Emmaus Oxford solidarity project; it’s great that once a week, local homeless people can drop in for food, supplies and advice.
I now feel ready to plan for the future. Now I’m in a more urban area, I’ve been applying for lots of volunteer roles and was really excited when a local special needs school recently invited me in for a chat and offered me a position helping out in classes. I’m really looking forward to starting this soon. It’s the next step of my journey. My plan is to volunteer and get my foot in the door so I can eventually look for a part-time job, get on the housing register and find somewhere to live.
I’m on a new adventure now and the future’s exciting, thanks to Emmaus.