Monday 18 December 2017

“At 17, I was living on the streets”


At 17, I was living on the streets” - formerly homeless man speaks out to encourage help for Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland this winter.

As the cold winter weather hits, our companion Chris is sharing his experience of sleeping rough and calling on people in the Hinckley area to help the homeless by supporting the charity that changed his life.

Chris Grewcock (33) was homeless for six years, but is now being supported by our charity Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. Emmaus has helped him escape life on the streets, providing accommodation and meaningful work. Having experienced sleeping rough during winter, Chris understands how important it is to help the homeless, especially at this time of year. He is now sharing his story to show how Emmaus makes a difference.

I don’t want sympathy for what’s happened to me in my life; thanks to the support of Emmaus, my life is good now – I just had a bad start. A few weeks before my 11th birthday, my Dad committed suicide; it still haunts me now. As I grew up I was a nightmare to live with and although my family tried to support me, I was using Class A drugs, in and out of different schools and ended up in foster care.”

Aged 17, Chris found himself with nowhere to live:

I was living on the streets, using hostels and also sleeping rough. I used to own a piece of cardboard, a sleeping bag and a change of clothes. I didn’t like to sleep in shop doorways because that’s where trouble starts, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. I’d take myself away from the centre of town and find shelter where I could and sometimes make my own shelter by stretching a tarpaulin between trees. Loneliness can really hit you when you’re homeless; I don’t like to be alone and felt much safer when I surrounded myself with people, deciding who to trust and who to avoid.

As a particularly bad winter approached, Chris decided to search online for somewhere to go to escape the freezing weather:

Emmaus came up as an option; I got in touch and they offered me a place. I slowly weaned myself off the drugs and the people at Emmaus were there to support me through it all; without their help I don’t know what I would have done.

Emmaus Leicestershire and Rutland supports 16 formerly homeless people by giving them a home, meaningful work in a social enterprise and an opportunity to regain lost self-esteem to help rebuild their lives.

Chris has now lived at Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland for 18 months, and – having fought his drug addiction - his life has changed completely:

Emmaus is so different to a hostel – it is a place to sleep plus a whole way of life. We live together as a community so we have to be considerate of each other’s needs and think of ourselves as a team. During the week I help to run the charity’s shops which raise vital funds; having a daily work routine definitely helps. I’m also back in touch with my family; they live nearby so I see them quite regularly. It took a long time to build those relationships again and it wasn’t easy, but it’s great now. I really do mean it when I say that without Emmaus, I would definitely be prison, or even dead now. I’ll always be grateful to the charity for changing my life. In fact, it means so much to me that I even have the Emmaus logo tattooed on my arm!

Having experienced life on the streets, this winter Chris is calling on local people to help Emmaus support more people to turn their lives around:

As cold weather hits, sometimes people want to help the homeless but don’t know the best way to do it. Supporting Emmaus is a great place to start. I’m asking everyone to take a look around at home – if you have any furniture you don’t want, give us a call. We collect items for free, so we can sell them in our three charity shops in Hinckley and Melton Mowbray.”

Click here to donate goods for sale in our shops, and find out more about how we help.