Being homeless is horrible. I was sofa surfing, rough sleeping and then got put into a hostel. When I first started on the streets, I would sleep on a park bench. Sleeping rough is horrible. I especially hated waking up in the morning feeling awful.

A few things led to me becoming homeless. I was living with my ex-girlfriend and the relationship just fell apart. From there I went back to Leeds and moved in with my family but that didn’t really work out. I was getting into things I didn’t want to do. After that I went to stay at my mates for a bit, sofa surfing, and then started sleeping rough.

I was having trouble being classed as homeless because at the weekends I was sofa surfing at my mates. Initially I couldn’t be put in any hostels but after a bit, a lady from the crisis team managed to get me in one. Being at the hostel was nice because I was off the streets, but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be. I was surrounded by unpleasant people and we all got kicked out at 7am every morning. Throughout the day you’re left worrying, visiting the housing office and only allowed back in the hostel after 6pm.

A positive change

The crisis lady then heard from somewhere about Emmaus Leeds. She managed to get me an appointment with them and I joined the same day. Moving into Emmaus, I felt proper emotional – it almost made me cry. It was a real change being off the streets and having my own room. I settled in OK and got used to living and working with loads of new people.

I spent around six months at the Emmaus Leeds community and then joined Emmaus Salford in January 2020. When I made the switch to Emmaus Salford, I was really worried at first. I didn’t know anyone and didn’t want to be stuck in a city I knew nothing about. Thankfully, the support worker I met when I first arrived made me feel very comfortable and I settled straight away. I felt I could trust the staff and be honest with my situation.

Most of the time at Emmaus Salford I have worked on the vans doing deliveries, collections and house clearances. I’m more of a hands-on person and paperwork doesn’t really suit me so working on the vans was good. I did do a bit of work in other areas of Emmaus Salford such as in the shops and a day in Lucie’s Pantry.

Outside of the work I got involved playing football on a regular basis. A few of the lads from Emmaus who were into football joined the fortnightly sessions with Foundation 92. We trained, played 5-a-side football matches together and it was good fun. The football sessions were also good for my confidence as it got me talking a bit more.

Onwards and upwards

In July I was given the chance to gain some work experience on a construction site. I’d previously done plumbing at college and was keen to get a job in construction and back into normal life. Knowing this, my support worker at Emmaus put me forward to do a work placement with Casey, a large construction firm. Casey were working on a project over the road from Emmaus and had supported the charity with a few things over the past year or so.

After a couple of weeks working on site, the manager at Casey offered me a full-time job and apprenticeship. I’m now working five days a week and will be starting my apprenticeship in groundworks soon. The work is very hands on, there’s lots to learn and I’m really enjoying it. Since I did the work placement, other things have fallen into place and this has made my mental health much better – I’m buzzing!

My plans for the future are to save up some money and move into my own flat. I’m hoping to get myself a little car, save up a bit more and get back into a normal life really. Everywhere is constantly changing and I don’t want to be in the system. I want to stand on my own two feet. There’s a bit inside me which I’m still scared of, as I don’t want to go back to step one, but I’m willing to give it a good go. I will miss everyone at Emmaus as I’ve made a lot of friends and the staff have really helped me.

Help is out there

Looking back, I’d say the biggest thing I’ve gained at Emmaus is a lot of confidence. When I was on the streets everything just puts you down. Coming to Emmaus I’ve felt accepted for who I am and been given lots of opportunities. It’s been beautiful really.

My main message to others who may be struggling is to be a bit more confident in yourself. When you’re homeless and don’t have any money, it’s just awful. I was just really shy on the streets and didn’t want to ask for help. I didn’t want to be a beggar or be seen how the majority of homeless people are seen. Once I realised that there are people who are helping, my situation changed massively.

Being part of Emmaus Salford feels like I’ve actually been listened to – it’s been brilliant. Please keep on donating, shopping and helping Emmaus in any way you can. The support keeps people who have been homeless working, it feeds them, gives people a home and opportunities, and supports the wider community too.