Zoe's story

27.09.17  High Street Shops. High Res  102 of 105

“My name is Zoe, I am 46 years old and I joined Emmaus in September 2015. For 23 years, I was a single mum; I worked as a dental nurse earning good money, living in a three-bed house… the rent was always paid, the bills were always paid, it wasn’t always easy but I’m a strong person and I made it work. But sometimes things happen in life that throw you off track; you can be a survivor one minute, but it can all get too much the next. I learned this the hard way.

Within the space of 18 months, both my partner and my grandson died and someone I knew assaulted me so badly that I suffered two bleeds on the brain. I turned to drink as a way of masking the loss and grief I was experiencing. I was also living in fear that the person who attacked me was forever jumping bail. I was living in a constant state of anxiety; it was almost a year before I could leave the house by myself. With both my kids grown up and moved out, I spent a lot of time by myself worrying. Things got so bad that I couldn’t even bring myself to walk my dog or nip to the shops for a loaf of bread. I was evicted from the house in February and I spent a few months sofa surfing. The problem was, loads of the people offering to put me up were alcohol dependent, and I didn’t want to be around that. At my lowest, I had to swig from a bottle of red wine every morning just to stop the shaking. So, I ended up sleeping on the streets, thinking it was the safest option.

It’s hard to be a woman sleeping rough. I slept in allotments, bin-sheds and even the cemetery where my partner was buried. I was reaching the end of my tether when I heard about a campsite that rough sleepers were using. They’d turned it into a bit of a safe space, but the council had caught wind of it and evicted them all. I just wanted somewhere to get my head down, so I broke in and stayed in an old tent. It was the very next day when I was face-to-face with a huge rat that I thought ‘enough is enough’, and I sought help from the council. They put me up in a B&B in Ipswich, before telling me about Emmaus. I can safely say the minute I walked into Emmaus Colchester, and met Gia and the team, I knew my life was going to change.

The first thing that meant so much to me was the opportunity to get up and have a hot shower. Still to do this day, I feel so lucky to be able to have access to clean running water when I wake up. Emmaus provided me with the warmth and security that I missed for so long; not only did they give me a bed, but they gave me a reason to get out of it every day. I had responsibility and structure back; I owned things again and was able to take on tasks. I completed a detox programme from alcohol and I was becoming a survivor again. After moving to Emmaus Cambridge, I stayed for almost a year before getting a job as the Assistant Store Manager at British Heart Foundation in town. I rent privately again and I can safely say I’m in the best place I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t be able to say that had I not discovered Emmaus, and I am forever grateful for the springboard they provided me with when I was at my lowest.”