Darren's story

Darren Emmaus Story

I’ve lived at Emmaus Dover for ten years, and it has completely changed my life. I’m so passionate about it and I really want to help spread the word and tell others how the charity helps so many people.

When I was young, my mum and dad split up and moved away so I lived with my grandparents for quite a while. When I was 31 they sadly passed away and I ended up living on my own in a council flat. I found myself a job working at a theme park but the pay wasn’t that good and I could only work for eight months each year because the park shut during winter. I got into debt and started receiving letters saying I was late paying bills. At that point I fell ill and I started to suffer from depression. My depression meant I stopped going to work and so lost my job; then I was told I was to be evicted. Instead of asking for help, I shut myself away and ignored it. I didn’t tell friends or family what was going on and it felt like I had no-one I could turn to for support. You don’t think of going to Citizen’s Advice when you’re depressed.

When eviction day came, I started off trying to stay with mates for a few nights, but then I found myself with nowhere to go. For weeks I slept on the streets in Stafford. I knew the town well as I’d grown up there, but now I was seeing it from a different perspective. It felt like I was a target so I tried to avoid being hassled by keeping out of sight, often heading into the countryside nearby to feel little bit safer, hiding behind hedges so no-one could see me. I felt so useless and it was really hard to approach people for help. I felt like I was nothing; I put myself down so much – I was so depressed.

I remembered that my uncle had been homeless years before; he’d sorted himself out thanks to a charity called Emmaus in Dover. I decided to go down to Dover to visit him, and he kindly arranged for me to meet with the charity’s staff. The interview went well and they offered me a room – it was such a relief. That was ten years ago and I’ve been here ever since.

Emmaus has supported me with my mental health issues, especially in the early days when I needed it most. There was always someone to talk to, which made a big difference. In the days when I worked for the theme park I used to be so outgoing that I’d chat to anyone. Experiencing depression and homelessness changed all that. When I first arrived at Emmaus I felt like I wanted to hide to avoid having to talk to people. My confidence has grown so much over the years here; I can see the old me coming back. I’m more positive and I’ve even started my own YouTube channel.

Living with so many different people from different backgrounds, I’ve learnt that you shouldn’t judge people; everyone’s got a past - a story to tell. Once you get to know someone, often you find out what they’ve experienced and realise why they might be behaving in a certain way.

I like the work aspect of life at Emmaus. We get given a roof over our head and three meals a day; it’s human nature to give something back by working for it. I’ve got my regular customers who look out for me, and I make sure I stop to talk when I see them.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve got my Customer Service NVQ, I’ve done a web design course, a First Aid course and a Business Administration qualification. Looking to the future, I want to move out and get a job working in an office; I really enjoy admin tasks and producing documents. I want that normal life again; thanks to the support of Emmaus I’ve now got the confidence to try my best to achieve that.