Stuart's story

Emmaus Norfolk companion Stuart 151018

"I was born and bred in Newcastle before moving to Norwich in 2013 with my partner of five years. When we separated a year later, I moved into rented accommodation and got into some difficulties which resulted in me becoming homeless.

Before moving to Norwich, I had a volunteer position with St John’s ambulance and British Red Cross in Newcastle. I did a lot of training with Red Cross to get my first aid certificates, along with training in moving and handling and patient transport. I also passed an exam with Red Cross to do emergency ambulance response and classified as an IHCD ambulance technician. This was around the time that Red Cross got the 24/7 contract with the NHS service, so I became a paid member of staff responding to 999 calls. I did that for 18 months until the contract ended and left Red Cross as I was in the process of moving to Norwich.

In Norwich, I carried on my work with an agency care company doing various first aid work across the county as well as a volunteer position with St John’s Ambulance. Life was going well until unfortunately, a year after relocating to Norwich, my partner and I separated as it just wasn’t working out. I went on to spend the next few years living in different rented accommodation.

It was in my last rented accommodation before Emmaus where I ran into problems. I was struggling to keep up with rent payments on my own, and the landlord refused to accept housing benefit. It was a flat above a shop and I later found out that it was because he had not registered the property as residential. The landlord ended up getting in a lot of trouble, and I was forced to leave.

Without enough money for a deposit on a new place to live, I found myself homeless. I started sofa-surfing with friends and colleagues in the area, but that wasn’t always possible. Eventually, I was sleeping outside almost every night, mostly in Chapelfield Park or in shop doorways. This was in March 2018, and the terrible weather and snow meant that most of the nights were extremely cold. Thankfully, I did receive support from a lady at a church in Norwich city centre, who gave me vouchers to get food and told me about Emmaus.

When I first arrived at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, I thought it was lovely – a decent bed, food, and friendly companions. Now that I’ve settled in, I still think the same. When I arrived the other companions kept offering me food and drinks, and making sure they chatted to me and made me feel welcome. They continue to be brilliant and everyone supports each other.

I have worked in the furniture shop, domestics, on the vans, and I am now being trained in the café. I haven’t got a favourite area yet, but I like working in the shop because I get to meet and talk to all of the customers. We get a lot of regular customers who I have got to know and chat with whenever they are in. I enjoy finding out what they are looking for and helping them.

Looking forward, I want to learn the different areas in Emmaus and see how it goes from there. Eventually, I would like to get back into my St John Ambulance volunteering too. I am also looking forward to going to Newcastle soon for my aunty’s 85th birthday, and I have heard a lot of good things about Christmas in Emmaus.

Emmaus is a really good charity with great support, and I would recommend it to anybody that is homeless. To all of our customers and donors – I would like to say thank you for all of the support that you have given Emmaus over the years."