“My name is Kiel Frank and I was 16 when I left home. I’d had quite an unsettled family upbringing; from a young age, I saw drinking in the morning and throughout the day as a normal part of life. This shaped me to become a person who drank in excess.
I was homeless on and off for 15 years and for the majority of this time I worked. In the evenings, I tried to find shelter to sleep wherever I could, and I would often go to my local Salvation Army to shower ready for the working day. I drank to be normal and I became very good at hiding it, even drinking at work.
One of the worst things about sleeping rough is the rain. You get wet and it’s hard to find somewhere to dry your clothes again; you can really get ill. The cold is bad too – when it is so cold that you can’t sleep, it’s so hard to deal with.
When you are on the streets you get that feeling of being invisible. I already felt pretty detached from society because of the drinking, but as I watched people walking past, ignoring me, I felt worse.
At times I wanted to open people’s eyes and show them that behind every homeless person there’s a person in need. Sometimes just giving some spare change, or even stopping for a five minute chat – it makes all the difference. Everyone wants to be noticed.
I was homeless for so long, until one day I had a moment that was a real turning point for me. I was feeling really down and was with a few people in an abandoned warehouse. I was drinking heavily and on the other side of the warehouse, there were people injecting Class A drugs, I suddenly thought ‘I have to get out of here.’ When morning came, I went to clean myself up in a public toilet. Looking at my reflection that morning and seeing what drink had done to me was terrifying. I did not recognise the frail, emaciated figure that stood in front of me. Alcohol became my food and the years of alcohol abuse had sent my body and mind into turmoil. I believe this had to happen for me to realise that my lifestyle had to change.
Earlier this year I completed a three-week security course. During this time, I was homeless and living in a tent. No one on my course knew I was homeless, and I didn’t want them to. On the final week of my course, Emmaus Cambridge took me in. This was a great relief as they helped me to complete it. Once I had finished my security course, Emmaus Cambridge allowed me to become a companion. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to Emmaus Cambridge for the support I have been given. It is because of them that I am alive.
I am now very positive for the future. I am constantly trying to better myself. I have two beautiful children so I want to rebuild my life to become the father they deserve. My love for them is unconditional and they are my main priority.”