[TW: abuse]

“Coming to Emmaus has shown me that when you have a lot of negativity in your life, you shouldn’t give up. I feel like I’ve like been given a second chance to make my kids proud.

I was in a really low place when I found Emmaus. I had been homeless and sofa-surfing for three years and before that, I was in an abusive relationship that started off verbal but did eventually get physical.

I felt stuck in that relationship for a long time, like I couldn’t get out no matter how many times I told him to go. The day I chose to leave, I’d had enough. I walked out and never looked back. It was so hard at first, but the best step I ever made.

I had my own house for some time but then became homeless. I stayed with my mum for a few nights a week and spent time sofa-surfing with friends. It got to the point that I didn’t know what to do. I’d lost a lot of trust in people through what had happened in my life. I had no self-esteem or confidence, and in all honestly, was on the verge of ending my life.

That’s when I found Emmaus. I was at Salford Precinct, the shopping centre, and so hungry. I asked a security guard if he knew of any soup kitchens, and he gave me directions to a place. When I got there, it turned out that it was the building that my mum used to work in which had been converted to Emmaus Salford. I’m not sure if it was fate or what, but it was as though I went back to my roots and I immediately felt like I was home.

A staff member made me toast and a cuppa and was so welcoming and caring. Two days later, I was invited to move into the Emmaus Salford community. At first, I thought it was a hostel, but it’s so much more than that. A hostel is just a bed, whereas Emmaus gives you the opportunity to work and get your life back into a routine.

It was overwhelming at first because I’ve always thought people didn’t care but I discovered the opposite was true at Emmaus. I was crying all the time about everything when I first arrived, and I’m so thankful for the support I got from the other companions.

The nice thing about Emmaus is that you can come down in the morning, see a friendly face, and chat to someone who understands what you’ve been through, because they’ve been through something similar.

Once I’d settled in, I realised I needed a fresh start away from Salford. My children were living abroad by this point, so I had no connections to the city and made the move to Emmaus Merseyside, where I stayed for two years. When I started thinking about what I would do after Emmaus, I decided that I needed somewhere quieter. Liverpool is a busy area, and like any city, has a lot of drugs around which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I didn’t want to end up moving into a flat and going down that path again. This led me to Emmaus South Wales and it’s a much better environment for me here.

I’ve worked in a few different roles during my time at Emmaus Salford and Merseyside, and now South Wales. I’ve been a retail assistant, done the community cooking and cleaning, and helped with furniture rotation and upcycling. I had never done any retail work but love it now and really enjoy getting to know all the regular customers.

In the past, I’ve also done a few upcycling courses through Emmaus. I really enjoy the thought of using old things and making them new again. Most recently, I’ve started doing rug ragging using old materials and threading it through a sack, it’s quite therapeutic and looks really good. I’ve also been helping to make beeswax wraps to sell and face masks using donated materials.

I cook for the other companions in the South Wales community three times a week and always eat my tea downstairs with them. They are like my family and we all care for each other. A few weeks ago, I had a cold. For precautionary reasons during the pandemic, I had to isolate in my room. That day, I thought I’d get into bed and have a nice sleep. Instead, my door didn’t stop knocking with people caring and asking if I was okay or bringing up food and drinks.

I felt so loved and started crying, thinking that kind of care is what I’ve missed in my life. Emmaus has that community feeling that has been lost out in the ‘real world’. People have lost connection to each other. I can remember years ago knocking on next door for a cup of sugar. You can’t do that these days, but Emmaus still has those values and it’s a nice place to be.

Next in life, I want to start a college course and Emmaus will support me to do that. I didn’t really get anything from school, but it’s never too late. I want to build myself up to do a GSCE in English and Maths. I’m also going to start driving lessons soon, which Emmaus will pay for. I had them when I was 18 but failed three times so gave up. I think this time I’d pass as I have more confidence, so I’m really looking forward to starting.

I now feel like there is something to live for and I can’t thank Emmaus enough. It will be in my heart, even long after I move out. I’ve got my confidence and self-esteem back and made friends for life with some of the other companions. All I really want in life is for my children to be proud of me, and they can’t believe the positive change in me.”