My name is David, I am 43 years old and I am originally from South London. I was a resident at Emmaus Leeds from April 2015 until November 2017. This is my story.
After being released from prison in April 2015 I was struggling to find a place to live. By going to prison I lost everything I had and was living on and off the streets. I had rung various places with no success due to how I was perceived on paper and this made me feel like I was being judged on my past actions and unable to move forward with my life. At first Emmaus thought I may be too high risk but after talking to me I was given an interview. I felt this had gone well but at the back of my mind was the thought that I would be told no. Thankfully I was given a room at Emmaus Leeds.
So here I was in Leeds, a city where I knew nobody, and I was totally alone. My guard was up straight away as I felt that my past meant people would judge me and from things I had heard I thought Emmaus might be some kind of weird cult… but I was so wrong!
Emmaus is about second chances and I was made to feel welcome and part of the community straight away. As time went by I found out more about Emmaus and the work they do. You are allocated a support worker who you meet with regularly to discuss your support needs and set goals for the future. The staff do not judge you on your past but focus on providing you with the tools so that you can help yourself to move forward. I completed several Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food cooking courses, Food Hygiene, First Aid and Manual Handling. Emmaus also helped me apply for a Passport and paid for my travel to London when my Father was unwell.
It felt weird as I had never been given this much support and help before and opportunities to better myself. The support team are always willing to listen and offer help regardless of the situation. I became a Companion Assistant which is a trusted role within the community. As part of my role I was responsible for the kitchen and the café, completing food orders, managing stock and training new companions to cook and use safe methods. I also helped with outside catering events. I enjoyed improving my cooking skills and creating my own dishes to serve for the community.
Emmaus helped me work on my trust issues and find things within myself which i thought i had lost forever, I feel like a better person. Emmaus communities are like a family and we look after each other through good times and bad.
We did lots of activities as a community and I was able to complete the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge’ which was a great team building experience. It was tough, but we kept each other going and even ran the last few hundred yards to make sure we got back to the finish line within the time limit!
In November 2017 I left Emmaus Leeds and moved into my own property. I proposed to my fiancée and have been job hunting and making positive plans for my future. I am hoping to secure full time work soon and finally feel like my life is coming together and I have so much to look forward to.
I will always be thankful to all the staff and companions for helping me to get to this point in my life, giving me a chance when nobody else would.
My final message to anybody reading this is never give up, you will always find somebody willing to give you a chance and for me this was Emmaus Leeds.