I’m originally from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, but after becoming homeless, Emmaus Leeds became my home for five years.
I got made homeless previously and a couple of friends had helped me out to get back on my feet and into work again. A homeless organisation down south put me in contact with what they thought was a verified landlord. I was renting a room from this guy for five months and then got a letter through the door saying no rent had been paid and I was to be evicted.
I got in contact with the guy I thought was the landlord and he said he had been taken off the property and that I needed to fight my corner to stay in. The real landlord started changing agreements, requesting an additional deposit and the rent that I had paid to the other guy. I couldn’t afford to pay what he was asking for, so I had to make myself homeless again.
I first heard about Emmaus when I saw Emmaus Oxford on the TV programme, Secret Millionaire. When I became homeless I contacted a few Emmaus communities down south. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any spaces, but Emmaus Leeds did have a space, so I headed north.
Over my five years at Emmaus I’ve been able to get involved in all sorts. Training and skills wise I’ve completed courses, repaired old PCs and importantly, gained hands-on retail and van driving experience which has been a massive benefit.
Solidarity wise, a definite highlight was scaling Ben Devis, the final leg of the Wall’s Walking Challenge fundraiser. The weather conditions and what it meant to everyone who completed the climb, made it an epic experience.
I’ve now moved-on to work for an online retail company. My role involves driving the vans and customer service, using the skills and experience I have developed whilst I was at Emmaus Leeds. In terms of the move-on, like with everything at Emmaus, it’s off your own back but the staff are there to give you that little helping nudge and support when you might need it. Ultimately, it’s up to each person to make it work for themselves.
Being part of the Emmaus Leeds community has had its moments, but it’s been a home at the end of the day. It’s been stability, work, evenings out, an opportunity to meet some amazing people and that home away from home. I will definitely stay in contact with the companions, staff and the friends I’ve made.
Emmaus has given me that opportunity to be able to push myself to break the stereotype of homelessness. I don’t think there are many places I would have been able to go that would have allowed me to do mountain bike racing, walking challenges and all the other crazy stuff I’ve done over the past five years.
I really appreciate the help the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund gave me to pursue my love of bike racing. It helped me purchase the first bike I used to start my racing back up and allow me the chance to help Emmaus through fundraising.
Being able to help develop the Emmaus social enterprise and help Emmaus be there for future generations to come has been really rewarding. A lot of the time it wasn’t about helping myself, it was more about helping others in the same shoes that I was in.
For people who are homeless, I would encourage them to take a look at Emmaus. It’s not right for everyone but I would say try it and see if it’s right for you. You’re living with 20 or more other people, it keeps you active during the daytime and you’re left to your own devices in the evenings and when you’re off.
I would like to thank all the people who support Emmaus Leeds and Emmaus in general. Without people helping, we wouldn’t be where we are and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do what I’m doing now.
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