I was quite young when my mental health issues started to emerge. I think my parents found me hard work and we never really saw eye to eye. In the end I left home when I was 17, but didn’t have anywhere to go. I remember my first night sleeping rough. I slept in a car park, on the floor. I didn’t have anything to sleep on and was just wearing my jacket. It wasn’t too cold that night, but it was noisy and I kept being asked to move on by security so I hardly slept.
For 12 years I was in and out of homelessness; it was all I knew. Sleeping at the side of bypasses and in hedgerows was normal for me. When you’re tucked away out of sight at night, you feel more at risk because you can’t see what’s coming. I preferred sleeping in more visible places so if the worst did happen and someone tried to intimidate me, it felt like I could shout for help.
When you’re sleeping rough, most people ignore you but some look at you like you are dirt. A few people can be kind and buy you a cup of coffee but most just walk past like you’re not there.
Occasionally I did find a place to stay for a while, but a lot of the services only give you a certain amount of time to stay there before you have to move on again. It felt like it was patching over instead of actually solving the problem. You can only paper over the cracks so much before they start to show again. I did find work too, on and off, but my mental health problems meant that jobs never used to last long.
One day I found out about Emmaus Oxford and I decided to get in touch to see if they could help me. Very soon after, I moved in. My bedroom here is actually a bit smaller than the one I had at my last hostel, but I didn’t get any support there. You can give me the nicest room in the world but if I don’t address my personal problems and issues then there’s no point: my situation won’t improve.
Now I’ve moved to Emmaus things feel more secure. Six months in, and the team here are supporting me with my issues and I was going to counselling for a while. My mental health is slowly improving day by day, which is such a good feeling.
I’m actually learning things too, because I’m working as well. I help to run the charity store van service, collecting and delivering furniture for customers. I’m also being given the chance to gain some qualifications. I recently completed an NVQ Level 2 in Storage and Warehousing; I’ve not really done much of that sort of thing in the past, so it was a great achievement for me and now I’d like to do more training. I want to build up my CV so I’ve got something to take away with me. There might be an NVQ coming up in Customer Service, so I’m hoping to do that next.
I want to take my time and know that when I do leave Emmaus, I’m ready for it. I don’t want to go back to hostels or sleeping rough. I’d like to be given the chance to get my own accommodation if I can, and to find work.
Emmaus has helped me progress and achieve things I didn’t think were possible. I’ve finally got a place to call home, for as long as I need it.