When I was 15 my parents and sister were killed by a gas explosion at home. I had no other family to go to and ended up living on the streets. Since then my life’s been up and down.

For 25 years I didn’t have a home. I slept wherever I could: in hostels, in night shelters, in tents, under bridges and occasionally on friends’ sofas. At first people could see how young, vulnerable and scared I was so I used to get attacked a lot. I had to provide my own food but without a job or qualifications I had to beg for money. Often my only option was to steal in order to survive.

Eventually I ended up in prison and when I came out I found it even harder to get paid work; no one wanted to employ me with a criminal record. I was a drinker and a drug user for many years. I tried a few times to get clean but was never able to settle down and cope. Two years ago I found myself on the streets of Leeds and addicted to spice.

“It got so bad that I didn’t care whether I lived or died”

That was when I heard about Emmaus. I applied, went for an interview and got accepted. I’m so glad I did. The people at Emmaus Leeds supported me to get clean. After a year there I transferred to Emmaus Village Carlton.

Emmaus gave me accommodation, clothes and food but unlike most other places they also gave me support and the chance to work. They paid all my bills and I could focus on getting back on track. They made sure I was looking after myself by helping with appointments at the doctors, dentists and opticians. I could access counselling and there were many opportunities to train and learn new skills.

Everybody at Emmaus uses a breathalyser each morning and agrees to random drug tests; that’s my security blanket at the moment to make sure I stay clean. I want to stay away from people involved in anti-social behaviour, drugs and crime so this is the perfect place for me.

One of the appeals of moving to Emmaus Village Carlton was the amount of green space here. I have a real passion for gardening and last year was part of a team which transformed a large area of the grounds into a growing space for fruit and vegetables.

I helped to run the Bistro for about a year and then recently a chef job came up and they encouraged me to apply for it. I was so pleased when I got the job. It’s a big step for me. Emmaus are paying for my Level 2 Diploma in Catering, as well as providing accommodation for a year as I adjust to life with paid work and save some money. In future I would really like to set up a business using my catering skills.

Doors are opening for me now. Two years ago when I was homeless I struggled to read and write; now I have a home, a job and I’m going to college. I owe Emmaus a lot; I’m employed by the organisation that saved my life and it means so much that people have faith in me.